Although benznidazole is effective, 20 per cent of patients do not stick to the treatment because of side effects which can include skin rashes, fever, vomiting and problems sleeping.
“The current treatment can cause severe side effects, which has often discouraged some people from seeking treatment and healthcare workers from recommending it,” said Dr Joaquim Gascon, director of the Chagas initiative at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), and one of the lead researchers.
“In this study we’ve shown, however, that shorter doses of benznidazole have the same positive results,” he said.
Most people with Chagas are infected in childhood but since it usually causes few symptoms many people are unaware they have the disease.
But 30 to 40 per cent of people go on to show symptoms years or even decades later, most often cardiac damage as the parasites hide in the heart of the host. This can lead to sudden death or progressive heart failure.
For the study, researchers compared six benznidazole-based treatment regimens of varying lengths and dosages on Chagas sufferers in rural Bolivia.