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Bed Bugs Can Transmit Parasite That Causes Chagas Disease

Chagas disease, often referred to as a silent killer, has mild or absent symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose in its early stages. The parasites are hidden in the heart and digestive muscle and can cause cardiac disorders and sometimes digestive or neurological problems over time. There are some drugs to treat Chagas disease, but they become less effective the longer the person is infected. In later years, the infection can lead to sudden death or heart failure caused by progressive destruction to the heart muscle.

Triatomines, also known as the “kissing bug”, are able to transmit Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease through their feces, which is deposited around the face of their sleeping host after a feed. A cousin of the bed bug, the triatomines has many similar features of the bed bug; hiding in household cracks and crevices, feeding on sleeping hosts and only coming out at nightfall. According to new research, it shows that bed bugs, like their cousins, can also transmit the parasite that causes Chagas disease, reports PCT Online.

The experiments demonstrated how bed bugs can acquire and transmit the parasite. This is a worrying discovery as bed bugs have more frequent contact with people than kissing bugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of Chagas disease cases in the U.S. today could be as high as 300,000, and 6-8 million wordwide, mostly in Latin America. It kills about 50,000 people a year.