What causes Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis)?

Updated: Apr 26, 2019
  • Author: Louis V Kirchhoff, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD  more...
  • Print
Answer

T cruzi is a member of the family Trypanosomatidae in the order Kinetoplastida and belongs to a special section called Stercoraria. The infective forms of T cruzi are contained in the feces of the insect vectors and gain entry into its mammalian hosts through contamination. This mechanism of transmission contrasts with that of the two subspecies of African trypanosomes that cause human disease, Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, which are transmitted via the saliva of their vectors, and with the mechanism by which the nonpathogenic trypanosome found in the Americas, Trypanosoma rangeli, is transmitted to its mammalian hosts.

As with other parasites that infect both mammalian and insect hosts, the life cycle of T cruzi is complex (see image below).

Life cycle of triatomines. Courtesy of the CDC. Life cycle of triatomines. Courtesy of the CDC.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!