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Acta Trop. 2010 Jul-Aug;115(1-2):1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.actatropica.2009.10.022. Epub 2009 Nov 4.

Carlos Chagas: biographical sketch.

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National Academy of Medicine, Carrera 7 No. 69-11, Bogotá DC, Colombia.


Carlos Chagas was born on 9 July 1878 in the farm "Bon Retiro" located close to the City of Oliveira in the interior of the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He started his medical studies in 1897 at the School of Medicine of Rio de Janeiro. In the late XIX century, the works by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch induced a change in the medical paradigm with emphasis in experimental demonstrations of the causal link between microbes and disease. During the same years in Germany appeared the pathological concept of disease, linking organic lesions with symptoms. All these innovations were adopted by the reforms of the medical schools in Brazil and influenced the scientific formation of Chagas. Chagas completed his medical studies between 1897 and 1903 and his examinations during these years were always ranked with high grades. Oswaldo Cruz accepted Chagas as a doctoral candidate and directed his thesis on "Hematological studies of Malaria" which was received with honors by the examiners. In 1903 the director appointed Chagas as research assistant at the Institute. In those years, the Institute of Manguinhos, under the direction of Oswaldo Cruz, initiated a process of institutional growth and gathered a distinguished group of Brazilian and foreign scientists. In 1907, he was requested to investigate and control a malaria outbreak in Lassance, Minas Gerais. In this moment Chagas could not have imagined that this field research was the beginning of one of the most notable medical discoveries. Chagas was, at the age of 28, a Research Assistant at the Institute of Manguinhos and was studying a new flagellate parasite isolated from triatomine insects captured in the State of Minas Gerais. Chagas made his discoveries in this order: first the causal agent, then the vector and finally the human cases. These notable discoveries were carried out by Chagas in twenty months. At the age of 33 Chagas had completed his discoveries and published the scientific articles that gave him world recognition and a deserved high place in medical history. After the publication of his classic article the world paid homage to Chagas who was elected member of the National Academy of Medicine of Brazil on 26 October 1910, and at the age of 31, of other National Academies of the continent. The Committee of Hygiene of the Society of Nations, precursor of the World Health Organization, was created in 1929. Chagas was elected member of this Committee from its inception until 1933. The example of Chagas' life can be summarized in his interest that medical research should be translated into concrete benefits for human beings because he was convinced that disease had not only biological but social determinants as well. Carlos Chagas was a laboratory researcher, a clinician and a health administrator. For all these accomplishments he deserves our respect and admiration.

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