Chagas disease is a parasitic infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. It is most common in Central and South America, as well as Mexico.
A donor sample is only tested for antibodies to Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi or Chagas Disease) when increased risk is present, determined by the donor screening questions.
We combine donor screening with testing to keep the blood supply safe from diseases like Chagas. There have been zero reported cases of Chagas in our blood products since Chagas antibody testing was implemented in 2010.
February 2009, Canadian Blood Services added questions to the donor screening questionnaire to identify donors who may be at increased risk for Chagas disease.
In May 2010, Canadian Blood Services implemented selective testing for donors who may be at increased risk for Chagas disease.
Only samples from those donors who have answered yes to the Chagas-related questions on the donor screening questionnaire undergo testing.
Donor Testing - Chagas Disease
Chagas disease is caused by infection from a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi). People can become infected after being bitten by an insect found mainly in parts of Mexico, Central and South America. However, the T. cruzi parasite can also be passed on from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, although this happens rarely, and from an infected blood donor by blood transfusion. Persons now living in Canada who were born or lived in countries where Chagas disease occurs, may have been infected without knowing it. There is no risk of getting Chagas disease in Canada as the insect that transmits it cannot live here.
How we are addressing the Chagas disease risk
In February 2009, Canadian Blood Services added three questions to the donor screening questionnaire to identify donors who may be at increased risk for Chagas disease. In May 2010, Canadian Blood Services implemented selective testing for donors who may be at increased risk for Chagas disease.
Donors are asked if they were born in or spent at least six continuous months in Mexico, Central or South America, and if they, or their mother or maternal grandmother, were born in these regions. These donors are tested for Chagas antibody. If the test is positive, the products are discarded and Canadian Blood Services will notify the donor and provide further information to the donor and their physician, if required.
About Chagas disease
Chagas disease is diagnosed by a blood test. Many people can be infected and never develop symptoms. However, those who do may have fever and swelling at the site of the insect bite. Although most people recover completely, some become chronically infected and can develop heart and gastrointestinal problems.