Detection and significance of inapparent infection in Chagas disease in western Venezuela.

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  • 1 Facultad de Ciencias, Instituto de Cardiología, Universidad de Los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela.

Inapparent infections of Trypanosoma cruzi were detected in symptomless seropositive people living in close proximity, and under the same conditions of risk, to patients with acute Chagas disease. Similar infections were also detected in sera samples of people from 25 villages of western Venezuela where Chagas disease is endemic. Seropositivity in all the 1,251 studied samples was established by use of 3 serological methods (direct agglutination test, indirect immunofluorescence antibody test, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). Each seropositive sample was tested for detection of anti-T. cruzi-specific immunoglobulin (Ig) M and IgG levels and specific T. cruzi infection by molecular methodology (polymerase chain reaction assay). The combined analysis of the serologic (IgM and IgG levels), molecular (specific T. cruzi DNA), and statistical findings demonstrated the existence of a different stage of T. cruzi infection in asymptomatic patients, which is suggested to be recognized as inapparent infection. Its definition, significance, and comparison with typical Chagas disease phases are presented, and its potential epidemiological importance is discussed.