Department of Tropical Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Nucleo de Pesquisas da Bahia, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBa), Department of Entomology, London School of Hygiene and Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, Brazil
Age-specific prevalence rates of parasitemia and seroreactivity to Trypanosoma cruzi were determined in a rural area endemic for Chagas' disease in Northeast Brazil. Parasitemia was detected by blood cultures and xenodiagnosis, and serum antibodies to the parasite were measured by the complement fixation (CF) and indirect immunofluorescence (IFA) tests. Of the 116 persons examined, 39 (33.7%) had antibodies and 23 (19.8%) had parasitemia. Ninety-six percent of parasitemic individuals were seropositive and 56% of seropositive individuals were parasitemic. The percentage of seropositive individuals with detectable parasitemia declined with age; all seropositive children in the 1- to 4-year age group and two-thirds of seropositive persons 5–19 years old had parasitemia while only one-third of seropositive adults above 19 years had parasitemia. CF and IFA tests were equally sensitive in detecting persons with parasitemia. Xenodiagnosis was more sensitive than culture for detecting parasitemia, but the two methods together were more sensitive than either method alone. Using the age-dependent relationship of parasitemia to seropositivity determined in this study, the prevalence rate of T. cruzi parasitemia was estimated in a much larger adjacent population in which seropositivity rates and the demographic structure were already known.