Evaluation of a Triatoma infestans elimination program by the decrease of Trypanosoma cruzi infection frequency in children younger than 10 years, Chile, 1991-1998.

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  • 1 Parasitology Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago.

Chagas disease is widespread in Chile, distributed in rural and periurban areas in the 7 most northern regions of the country. The principal vector of Trypanosoma cruzi is Triatoma infestans. The interruption of the domestic cycle of transmission of T. cruzi has been attempted by health education, human housing improving, and elimination of the vector by means of systematic insecticide spraying of human dwellings. Spraying with insecticides has been supported by Chile's health authorities and has been carried out for the last 12 years. A total of 13,280 children (aged up to 10 years) were randomly selected from 47 counties in the area of Chile endemic for Chagas disease, and blood samples were collected to determine the levels of antibodies to T. cruzi by indirect hemagglutination and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests. The results of the tests were analyzed to determine the changes that occurred after 12 years of insecticide spraying of dwellings to eliminate T. infestans infestation. A total of 142 (1.1%) samples of children showed antibodies to T. cruzi. This rate is significantly lower than the data generated in similar studies conducted in 1982-1985. The following reduction in prevalence rates were observed in each of the 7 endemic regions of the country: region I, 5.5-0.3%; region II, 6.6-0.3%; region III, 9.8-1.0%; region IV, 7.2-2.0%; region V, 5.2-1.9%, Metropolitan region, 1.4-0.6%; and region VI, 1.4-0.4%. Serovigilance of T. cruzi antibodies level represents a novel approach that may allow the evaluation of the impact of the vector elimination program. The results identify regions that need to strengthen the efforts to reduce the insect infestation of dwellings.