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Parasite Immunol. 2009 Nov;31(11):673-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3024.2009.01108.x.

The role of parasite persistence in pathogenesis of Chagas heart disease.

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Department of Biochemistry and Immunology, Ribeirão Preto School of Medicine, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.


Chagas disease (CD) is caused by the infection with the protozoan haemoflagellate Trypanosoma cruzi. This disease is still a great menace to public health, and is largely neglected as it affects mostly the poorest populations of Latin America. Nonetheless, there are neither effective diagnostic markers nor therapeutic options to accurately detect and efficiently cure this chronic infection. In spite of the great advances in the knowledge of the biology of natural transmission, as well as the immunobiology of the host-parasite interaction, the understanding of the pathogenesis of CD remains largely elusive. In the recent decades, a controversy in the research community has developed about the relevance of parasite persistence or autoimmune phenomena in the development of chronic cardiac pathology. One of the most notable aspects of chronic CD is the progressive deterioration of cardiac function, derived mostly from structural derangement, as a consequence of the intense inflammatory process. Here we review the evidence supporting the multifactorial nature of Chagas heart disease comprising pathogen persistence and altered host immunoregulatory mechanisms.

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