Health: Monitoring How The Chagas Disease Is Damaging South America

Trajaan / Chagas disease

Latin Americans are facing Chagas, a new plague coming straight from their homes. As bed bugs, Chagas are spreading fast and causing severe disease among the fragile population.

Given the lack of local data, monitoring search trends is the best tool for health organizations to analyze how the situation is evolving in every country.

Chagas: a preoccupying health concern

The Chagas disease is a parasitic infection that occurs in the tropical regions of South and Central America. It is caused by the sting of a certain type of bedbug called vinchucas (Triatominae).

It is considered one of the most severe plagues in South America with dengue, zika, and chikungunya. According to the WHO, Chagas disease currently affects 8 to 10 million people, with an estimated 100 million others (25% of the Latin American population) potentially at risk of contracting the disease, killing an estimated 50,000 people yearly.

💉 2,26M of searches for the disease in 2021
💉 +61,3% of searches on last 6 months
Volume of search for "vinchuca" insect last 6 months in South America

Chagas, Vinchuca ... different names for a unique issue

The infection may have different names, but our platform can detect all the appellations depending on the local language and culture. We have guided our study by surveying Spanish and Portuguese expressions to develop the broadest and most exhaustive vision of the plague.

Top #1 search in every latin country

A continental issue with local disparities

The disease occurs in almost all of the Americas, from the southern United States to northern Argentina, mostly in poor rural areas of Central and South America. 

Let’s look at the number of online searches by country in Latin America – what we refer to as ‘local affinity’. We see that sub-amazonian countries present the highest affinity with the disease (amount of searches for 100.000 inhabitants). 

These data are in accord with the infectious geographic distribution elaborated by the WHO, which highlights that dense vegetation, such as rainforests, and urban habitats do not provide ideal conditions for establishing the human transmission cycle. 

Given their population, countries manifesting the biggest fear of the disease are:

→ Chile182 searches per 100.000 inhabitants

→ Argentina176 searches per 100.000 inhabitants

→ Paraguay155 searches per 100.000 inhabitants

Affinity distribution in South America for the disease

Analyzing how the plague is evolving all along the year

While the globe was startled by the Covid-19 outbreak, other infections crept across borders. 

Exactly like many infections and diseases, the Chagas plague presents some seasonality. People tend to be particularly concerned about symptoms during the spring period:

→ 38,000 searches about Chagas disease symptoms in May

→ It’s 2,1x more than the monthly mean

Searches related to the plague evolution along 2021 in South America

Is chagas coming to Europe?

Non-endemic countries (including Europe) have many imported cases, WHO considers this amount is situated probably around 26,000 patients in Spain, 5,000 in France and Italy, and 1,500 in Germany and Swiss. Our platform also monitored those cases of importation in Europe, indeed:

If Spain were in South America, it would be the sixth most searched-for-country for Chagas disease. Before countries like Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

In Spain & Portugal:

  • 175,000 searches in Spain in 2021
  • 118,000 searches in Portugal in 2021
  • Portugal has the 6th highest. search affinity to the disease

Which consequences? Main symptoms?

The onset phase corresponds to an incubation period of one to two weeks (passage of parasites into the circulating blood). It is often asymptomatic, goes unnoticed, or consists of non-specific symptoms: fever, anorexia, headache.

Late consequences arise years or even decades after the initial infection in the chronic symptomatic phase. These consequences, with a range in severity, have an impact on the heart, the digestive system, and the nervous system.

→ The main worry concerns heart condition, with very localized pains: 88,5% of searches

→ Gastro-intestinal condition: 5,9%

→ Swollen eyelid: 3%

→ Skin rash: 2,6%

Symptom distribution searches in South America

Local populations are looking for drug treatments they can barely afford

Drugs used to treat Chagas disease are usually only effective if administered during the acute phase of infection. The molecules of choice are azole or nitro derivatives such as benznidazole or nifurtimox.

Through our platform, we have seen that people tend to prefer the solution offered by nifurtimox.

💊 2,16x more searched in Chile

💊 2x more searched in Ecuador

💊 1,7x more searched in Peru

Search evolution for drugs against chagas along 2021

There are currently no vaccines available for Chagas disease. Some research in mouse, dog, and non-human primate models has shown some efficacy but is difficult to compare, evaluate, and extrapolate to humans, and has not progressed beyond the preclinical stage.

However, we noticed that people express a real demand for vaccines with a monthly steady amount of searches, around 800 per month.

Evolution of searches related to chagas vaccine along 2021

Locals are looking to fight against vinchucas without vaccines

As mosquitos, bedbugs are the main propagators of many diseases in South America. People are already aware of their dangerousness. Indeed, many American inhabitants are looking for alternative ways to fight against the plague other than drugs & vaccines.

⚔️ 9.600 searches are made every month for testing & physiopathology (the study of the disordered physiological processes that cause, result from, or are otherwise associated with a disease or injury)

⚔️ 4.500 searches are made monthly to know more about antiparasitic. Prevention is based on control of the disease using aerosols and paints containing insecticides and improving housing and sanitary conditions in rural areas.

⚔️ 120 searches are made monthly to carry out a xenodiagnostic (method used to document the presence of infectious disease microorganisms or pathogens)

Searches for prevention solutions distribution in South America

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