Department of Tropical Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Nucleo de Pesquisas, Instituto Nacional de Endemias Rurais INERU-FIOCRUZ, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Faculdade de Medicina, Federal University of Bahia (UFBa), Boston, Massachusetts 02115, Brazil
The prevalence rates and household distribution of seroreactivity to Trypanosoma cruzi by complement fixation (CF) and indirect immunofluorescent antibody methods were determined in a population of 1,087 persons living in a rural area endemic for Chagas' disease in northeast Brazil. There was a gradual rise in the rate of seropositivity to 60% by age 20. Between ages 20 and 55 the prevalence rate remained at about 60%, but declined thereafter. The decline in the older age groups was not accompanied by a fall in geometric mean titer, suggesting that the decline might better be explained by an increased mortality among those seropositive than by a decrease in CF reactivity associated with age. There was variation in the rates of seropositivity in children among the geographic subunits, but the rates among adults were fairly uniform. Household clustering of seropositivity was demonstrated when both household size and age distribution were taken into account. The presence of a seropositive child less than 5 years of age was a good indicator of a household with a high rate of seropositivity; screening for young seropositive children might be a useful tool to locate high risk households. Seropositive children in households where the mother was seropositive but the father seronegative were significantly younger than seropositive children in households where the father was seropositive but the mother seronegative even though the age distribution and the overall rate of seropositivity in both groups of children were similar; thus, conversion to seropositivity earlier in life in children of seropositive mothers may not be due solely to increased exposure, but may indicate that the immunologic response in such children differed from that of children from seronegative mothers.