Trypanosoma cruzi is a protozoan infection widely spread in Latin America, from Mexico in the north to Argentina and Chile in the south. The second most important way of acquiring the infection is by blood transfusion. Even if most countries of Latin America have law/decree/norms, that make mandatory the screening of blood donors for infectious diseases, including T. cruzi (El Salvador and Nicaragua do not have laws on the subject), there is usually no enforcement or it is very lax.
Analysis of published serologic surveys of T. cruzi antibodies in blood donors done in 1993, indicating the number of donors and screening coverage for T. cruzi in ten countries of Central and South America indicated that the probability of receiving a potentially infected transfusion unit in each country varied from 1,096 per 10,000 transfusions in Bolivia, the highest, to 13.02 or 13.86 per 10,000 transfusions in Honduras and Venezuela respectively, where screening coverage was 100%. On the other hand
the probability of transmitting a T. cruzi infected unit was 219/10,000 in Bolivia, 24/10,000 in Colombia, 17/10,000 in El Salvador, and around 2-12/10,000 for the seven other countries.
Infectivity risks defined as the likelihood of being infected when receiving an infected transfusion unit were assumed to be 20% for T. cruzi. Based on this, estimates of the absolute number of infections induced by transfusion indicated that they were 832, 236, and 875 in Bolivia, Chile and Colombia respectively. In all the other countries varied from seven in Honduras to 85 in El Salvador.
Since 1993, the situation has improved. At that time only Honduras and Venezuela screened 100% of donors, while seven countries, Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, did the same in 1996. In Central America, without information from Guatemala, the screening of donors for
T. cruzi prevented the transfusion of 1,481 infected units and the potential infection of 300 individuals in 1996. In the same year, in seven countries of South America, the screening prevented
the transfusion of 36,017 infected units and 7, 201 potential cases of transfusional infection.