ASE’s Involvement with Chagas Disease Expected to be the Catalyst for More Action

Dr. Federico Asch, MedStar Health, recently represented ASE as the only U.S.-based speaker at a congress in Mexico City commemorating the 110-year discovery of Chagas Disease. Dr. Asch’s involvement as co-chair of ASE’s 2018 guideline document on Chagas disease (translated in Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese) and his role as the ASE leader of “Project Chagas,” an ASE Foundation (ASEF) global health initiative that focused on pre-identified patients diagnosed with Chagas disease, made him a logical choice for this speaking engagement.

A collaboration between government and academia, the three-day meeting was organized by Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, one of the largest public universities in Latin America, and CENAPRECE, the preventative disease group within Mexico’s national Department of Health. The overarching goal was to increase awareness of Chagas disease among the community and to understand the status of multiple initiatives being conducted at a regional and national level to improve disease detection and treatment through collaborations between institutions and caregivers at different levels. The meeting focused on three sections – the parasite, the vector, and the disease – and was attended by microbiologists, epidemiologists, and physicians, mostly from within Mexico.  Dr. Asch’s presentation was on the findings of the ASEF Project Chagas activity in Mérida, which were previously presented at ASE Scientific Sessions 2019 in Portland.

The Chagas conference gave representatives from ASE and Mexican government and academia the opportunity to come together. Left to right: Dra. Bertha Espinoza Gutierrez, UNAM, CDMX; Dr. Federico Asch, ASE; Dr. Adolfo Chavez Mendoza, Instituto Nacional de Cardiologia and Secretariat of Health; Yurika Manuel Valencia, CENAPRECE.

The goal of ASEF’s Project Chagas was to investigate the prevalence of Chagas cardiomyopathy, detect those individuals previously undiagnosed, and connect them with local cardiologists who would provide proper cardiac care within the regional public system. ASE physician and sonographer volunteers worked alongside representatives from CENAPRECE and the Yucatan Health Service, volunteers from the National Cardiology Association of Mexico (ANCAM), and industry partners from Philips Mexico Commercial S.A. de C.V.  The event was hosted by the project’s institutional partner, Hospital General Agustin O Horan in Mérida.

When asked about his takeaways from the meeting, Dr. Asch stated, “My main take was how the ASEF/ANCAM experience brings a call for reality, understanding how underdiagnosed the cardiac disease of Chagas is, and how it brings an opportunity for action to detect and treat these people. The wide interest from experts around the country and the Public Services was strong and their intent for expanding Project Chagas into other regions of the country is there. We expect to be the catalyst for that action.”

For more information about cardiac imaging of patients with Chagas disease, read the 2018 ASE guideline document, and also this information about “Project Chagas,” the ASEF global health initiative held in August 2018 in Mérida, Yucatán, México.