Global left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction is the strongest predictor of morbidity and mortality in Chagas disease. Echocardiography is considered the gold standard for the detection of LV dysfunction, but not always available in endemic areas where chagasic cardiomyopathy is most common. Brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a neurohormone that has been recently described as a simple and inexpensive diagnostic and prognostic marker for patients with congestive heart failure. Chagasic patients (n = 63) and non-infected healthy individuals (n = 18) were recruited prospectively and underwent complete clinical examination, echocardiography and 24-h Holter monitoring. BNP was measured from thawed plasma samples using the Triage BNP test. We observed high levels of BNP in association with depression of LV ejection fraction, with increase of LV end-diastolic diameter and with LV premature complexes. An elevated concentration of BNP, defined as a concentration of 60 pg/ml or more, had a sensitivity of 91.7%, specificity of 82.8%, positive predictive value of 52.4%, and negative predictive value of 98% for detecting LV dysfunction (LV ejection fraction < 40%). BNP measurement using a simple, relatively inexpensive and rapid test has a promising role in identifying LV dysfunction associated with chagasic cardiomyopathy. Equally important, patients with Trypanosoma cruzi
infection who have low levels of BNP level in plasma have a very low likelihood of severe cardiac involvement, and echocardiography is probably not necessary.