DNDi (Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (in Portuguese, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz or Fiocruz), along with diverse national stakeholders, are partnering to improve access to diagnosis and treatment for Chagas disease in Brazil. The collaborative project was launched during the 54th Congress of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine held in the city of Recife in northeast Brazil. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, between 1.9 and 4.6 million people suffer from the disease in the country. The disease is mainly spread by the so-called “kissing bug”. While it typically remains asymptomatic for years following infection, Chagas disease can eventually begin to affect vital organs, most often the heart.
Both the general public and health professionals are often unaware of Chagas disease, creating a major challenge for increasing access to diagnosis and treatment. In addition, there is often insufficient coordination between epidemiological surveillance, primary care, and specialized healthcare services. The partnership between DNDi and Fiocruz is part of a strategy that aims to strengthen collaboration between research institutions, state and municipal health authorities, and technical personnel from the Ministry of Health.
“DNDi has worked for many years on research and development for Chagas, amongst other neglected diseases. In Colombia and Guatemala, DNDi has also started projects to strengthen the capacity of the health systems and improve access to diagnosis and treatment for the disease. In Colombia, after simplifying the diagnostic test algorithm, we have increased access to diagnosis by over 1000% in the areas covered by the pilot project. We have also managed to train 100% of the health personnel in those areas,” explained Dr Andrea Marchiol, DNDi’s Access Project Manager. “We know there is not one single solution that can simply be replicated in other contexts. This is why in Brazil we are working with Fiocruz and a range of heatlh professionals to identify the principal obstacles and propose appropriate strategies.”
Since Carlos Chagas discovered the disease in 1909, Fiocruz, the institution he helped found, has promoted initiatives including basic research, investigation of the disease process, development of new therapeutic approaches, and educational activities for the general population and healthcare personnel working within the public health system in vulnerable areas. The foundation currently carries out educational activities in the Brazilian states of Pará, Ceará, and Piauí, and advocates for provision of comprehensive care to patients.
“This type of work reinforces the role of Fiocruz as a strategic public institution, which contributes to strengthening the public health system and the provision of basic healthcare, as fundamental for health promotion,” said Marcos Menezes, Vice-President of Environment, Healthcare and Health Promotion at Fiocruz.
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Photo credit: Rodrigo Carvalho-DNDi