Antiparasitic treatment is indicated for all cases of acute or reactivated Chagas disease and for chronic Trypanosoma cruzi infection in children up to age 18. Congenital infections are considered acute disease. Treatment is strongly recommended for adults up to 50 years old with chronic infection who do not already have advanced Chagas cardiomyopathy. For adults older than 50 years with chronic T. cruzi infection, the decision to treat with antiparasitic drugs should be individualized, weighing the potential benefits and risks for the patient. Physicians should consider factors such as the patient's age, clinical status, preference, and overall health.
The two drugs used to treat infection with Trypanosoma cruzi are nifurtimox and benznidazole. In the United States, these drugs are not FDA approved and are available only from CDC under investigational protocols. For both drugs, side effects are fairly common, and tend to be more frequent and more severe with increasing age.
Common side effects of benznidazole treatment include:
- allergic dermatitis
- peripheral neuropathy
- anorexia and weight loss
The most common side effects of nifurtimox are:
- anorexia and weight loss
- dizziness or vertigo
Contraindications for treatment include severe hepatic and/or renal disease. As safety for infants exposed through breastfeeding has not been documented, withholding treatment while breastfeeding is also recommended. The following table outlines recommended dosage regimens by age group:
|Drug||Age group||Dosage and duration|
|Benznidazole||< 12 years||10 mg/kg per day orally in 2 divided doses for 60 days|
|12 years or older||5-7 mg/kg per day orally in 2 divided doses for 60 days|
|Nifurtimox||≤ 10 years||15-20 mg/kg per day orally in 3 or 4 divided doses for 90 days|
|11-16 years||12.5-15 mg/kg per day orally in 3 or 4 divided doses for 90 days|
|17 years or older||8-10 mg/kg per day orally in 3 or 4 divided doses for 90 days|
Questions regarding treatment should be directed to Parasitic Diseases Public Inquiries (404-718-4745; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
For emergencies (for example, acute Chagas disease with severe manifestations, Chagas disease in a newborn, or Chagas disease in an immunocompromised person) outside of regular business hours, call the CDC Emergency Operations Center (770-488-7100) and ask for the person on call for Parasitic Diseases.
Guidance for Evaluation and Treatment
For more detailed information on evaluation and treatment, this link provides free access to a recent review article:
Evaluation and Treatment of Chagas Disease in the United States: A Systematic Review (JAMA 2007: 298:2171-81)*