Kissing Bugs Can Cause Death, Study Finds

Posted: May 21 2017, 7:48am CDT | by , Updated: May 21 2017, 7:56am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Kissing Bugs can Cause Death, Study Finds
Credit: KENS5

Chagas disease caused by kissing bug's bit was found to increase risk of death by two to three times

The bit of kissing bugs is deadlier than thought.

The bug is typically found in Southern USA, Mexico, Central and South America and often bites people around their lips or in the face as they sleep, earning it the name kissing bug. The kissing bug carries an infectious parasite, called Trypanasoma cruzi, which parasite enters the human body through the bite of the insect and causes Chagas disease.

Though Chagas disease is generally considered to be mild, a new research has found that it can prove fatal. The disease leads to more deaths than originally thought and increases risk of death by two to three times.

“In every age category, people who had Chagas died more than people who didn't have Chagas.” Dr. Ligia Capuani, a Brazilian infectious disease researcher and lead author of the study told CNN.

Researchers analyzed data of more than 2,000 people tested positive for Chagas and compared their death rate with those who were tested negative for the infection. All the participants belonged to Brazilian city Sao Paulo and were followed for up to 14 years, from 1996 to 2000.

Among those who tested positive for Chagas, 159 died during the course of the study. Whereas only 103 participants who were not affected by the disease died that period, representing a more than doubling of the overall death risk. Most of those deaths were caused by heart problem, which is a common symptom associated with Chagas.

Around 40 percent of people who were tested positive for Chagas disease and died did not have that infection stated on their death certificate. It explains why deaths from Chagas are not reported and the disease is mostly gone unrecognized.

“The fact that Chagas disease was not reported as an underlying or associated cause of death on the death certificate of 42% of seropositive donors that died due to cardiac causes demonstrates under ascertainment of Chagas disease pathogenesis, highlighting its status as a neglected tropical disease," said researcher. "Research is urgently needed in order to test new therapeutic options with fewer side effects and to find better correlates of disease progression.”

Chagas disease affects more than 6 million people worldwide and classified as one of the most important neglected diseases by the World Health Organization. The disease is not confined only to the poor or underdeveloped countries. The CDC estimates that there are 300,000 cases of Chagas in the United States and most of them contracted it from other countries.

There is no vaccine against Chagas, so the only way to stop its spread is by controlling kissing bugs that transmit the disease.

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