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Bolivia has the world’s highest incidence of the parasitic disease chagas. It is found in 60 percent of the country, and around 4.4 million people are at risk of infection.

A disease endemic in Latin America, chagas, is most commonly transmitted through the bites of infected Triatominae (or "kissing bugs") often found in cracks in the walls and roofs of mud and straw housing in rural areas and urban slums.

The disease can be asymptomatic for many years, but if left untreated it may progress and fatally damage the nervous system and internal organs. Chagas is not as well-known as diseases such as malaria or cholera, but it affects between six and seven million people and kills up to 12,500 each year.

MSF has worked intermittently in Bolivia to battle chagas since 1986. Our teams have assisted with a national program to strengthen community surveillance by training local volunteers and were also directly involved in vector management within homes. Many patients are afraid of the treatment because the medication used comes with the risk of many side effects. Our teams have provided access to treatment for patients with secondary complications of the disease, by training medical staff in early detection.  

Chagas disease is considered a neglected disease by the World Health Organisation

Research and development for new treatments remains severely underfunded. Many patients are very poor and represent an unprofitable market for drug companies and the result is that existing drugs and diagnostic tests are inadequate, expensive and in short supply.  

MSF has been treating patients with Chagas disease since 1999, and continues to support the Bolivian Government to tackle the disease.

Find out more about Bolivia