Among the pathophysiological derangements operating in the chronic phase of Chagas disease, parasite persistence
is likely to constitute the main mechanism of myocardial injury in patients with chronic chagasic cardiomyopathy.
The presence of Trypanosoma cruzi
in the heart causes a low-grade, but relentless, inflammatory process and induces myocardial autoimmune injury. These facts suggest that trypanocidal therapy may positively impact the clinical course of patients with chronic Chagas heart disease. However, the experimental and clinical evidence currently available is insufficient to support the routine use of etiologic treatment in these patients. The BENEFIT project - Benznidazole Evaluation for Interrupting Trypanosomiasis - is an international, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of trypanocidal treatment with benznidazole in patients with chronic Chagas heart disease. This project is actually comprised of two studies. The pilot study investigates whether etiologic treatment significantly
reduces parasite burden, as assessed by polymerase chain reaction-based techniques and also determines the safety and tolerability profile of the trypanocidal drug in this type of chagasic population. The full-scale study determines whether antitrypanosomal therapy with benznidazole reduces mortality and other major cardiovascular clinical outcomes in patients with chronic Chagas heart disease.