Human Chagas disease is a purely accidental occurrence. As humans came into contact with the natural foci of infection might then have become infected as a single addition to the already extensive host range of Trypanosoma cruzi that includes other primates. Thus began a process of adaptation and domiciliation to human habitations through which the vectors had direct access to abundant food as well as protection from climatic changes and predators.
Our work deals with the extraction and specific amplification by polymerase chain reaction of T. cruzi DNA obtained from mummified human tissues and the positive diagnosis of Chagas disease in a series of 4,000-year-old Pre-Hispanic human mummies from the northern coast of Chile.
The area has been inhabited at least for 7,000 years, first by hunters, fishers and gatherers, and then gradually by more permanent settlements. The studied specimens belonged to the Chinchorro culture, a people inhabiting the area now occupied by the modern city of Arica. These were essentially fishers with a complex religious ideology, which accounts for the preservation of their dead in the way of mummified bodies, further enhanced by the extremely dry conditions of the desert. Chinchorro mummies are, perhaps, the oldest preserved bodies known to date.