Genome of BedBug shows close relationships to Kissing Bug, one of several vectors for deadly Chagas disease, and the body louse. Both have tight associations with humans.

February 2, 2016 | News from Weill Cornell Medical College

Researchers Sequence First Bedbug Genome.  Scientists have assembled the first complete genome of one of humanity’s oldest and least-loved companions: the bedbug. The new work, led by researchers at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medicine, and published Feb. 2 in Nature Communications, could help combat pesticide resistance in the unwelcome parasite. The data also provides a rich genetic resource for mapping bedbug activity in human hosts and in cities, including subways.

male and female bedbugs – both fed and unfed – comparison with apple seeds

“Bedbugs are one of New York City’s most iconic living fossils, along with cockroaches, meaning that their outward appearance has hardly changed throughout their long lineage,” said one of the paper’s corresponding authors Dr. George Amato, director of the museum’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics. “But despite their static look, we know that they continue to evolve, mostly in ways that make it harder for humans to dissociate with them. This work gives us the genetic basis to explore the bedbug’s basic biology and its adaptation to dense human environments.”

The common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) has been coupled with humans for thousands of years. This species is found in temperate regions and prefers to feed on human blood. In recent decades, the prevalence of heated homes and global air travel has accelerated infestations in urban areas, where bedbugs have constant access to blood meals and opportunities to migrate to new hosts. A resurgence in bedbug infestations since the late 1990s is largely associated with the evolution of the insects’ resistance to known pesticides, many of which are not suitable for indoor application.

“Bedbugs all but vanished from human lives in the 1940s because of the widespread use of DDT, but unfortunately, overuse contributed to resistance issues quite soon after that in bedbugs and other insect pests,” said Louis Sorkin, an author on the paper and a senior scientific assistant in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology. “Today, a very high percentage of bedbugs have genetic mutations that make them resistant to the insecticides that were commonly used to battle these urban pests. This makes the control of bedbugs extremely labor intensive.”

The researchers extracted DNA and RNA from preserved and living collections, including samples from a population that was first collected in 1973 and has been maintained by museum staff members since then. RNA was sampled from males and females representing each of the bug’s six life stages, before and after blood meals, in order to paint a full picture of the bedbug genome.

When compared with 20 other arthropod genomes, the genome of the common bedbug shows close relationships to the kissing bug (Rhodnius prolixus), one of several vectors for Chagas disease, and the body louse (Pediculus humanus), which both have tight associations with humans.

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Trending today: #Bedbugs are developing a strong resistance to most common insecticides

February 2, 2016 | by Ryan Biek | Newsy

Bedbugs are reportedly building up a strong resistance to some of the most powerful insecticides due to overuse, which means we might need to turn to non-chemical solutions to get rid of them.

Researchers from Virginia Tech and New Mexico State University tested the most common class of insecticide called neonicotinoids, or neonics, which is often combined with pyrethroids in commercial treatments for bedbugs.

Bedbugs are developing a strong resistance to most common insecticides photo

They took a group of bedbugs that came from homes in Ohio and Michigan, which had previously been exposed to neonics, and compared those bedbugs to a population that has been kept in isolation for 30 years, before the insecticide was used.

A third group of bedbugs that was resistant to pyrethroids but never exposed to neonics was also included in the study.

Depending on the specific types of neonic tested, the Ohio and Michigan bedbugs were hundreds to tens of thousands of times more resistant than the isolated group.

The third group’s results were in the middle: more resistant than the isolated group but less resistant than the Ohio and Michigan bedbugs.

Because that third group had never been exposed to neonics, the researchers believe the bedbugs may have a pre-existing resistance mechanism.

The researchers said more non-chemical methods need to be used to combat bedbug infestations. However, they noted the most resistant bedbugs in the study only came from two areas, and not all of the U.S. may be facing this level of resistance.

Deadly Chagas Disease-Spreading ‘Kissing Bug/Love Bug’ In U.S. Both Bugs are cousins to the Bed Bug.

“Kissing bugs” are now carrying Chagas in the U.S.

By Madison Burke | November 5, 2014

If you’re one of the people freaked out by Ebola, here’s another thing to potentially freak out about. “Kissing bugs” may be spreading a rare disease in the U.S.

Trypanosoma cruzi, or “kissing bugs” as they’re better known, crawl on people’s faces at night and suck their blood.

And there’s more. The bugs are spreading a disease called Chagas, which can lead to heart problems and intestinal complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  says Chagas occurs primarily in rural areas of Latin America and in recent years has been showing its face in the U.S.

While much of the outbreak in Latin America has to do with the kissing bugs, the CDC believes most U.S. cases occur from a patient visiting an affected country or from mother-to-baby, blood transfusions and organ transplants.

However, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found 36 percent of the 17 Texas blood donors who tested positive for Chagas appeared to have contracted it from the kissing bugs. The team also found several bugs in the area carrying the disease, although no direct correlation has been made.

Chagas researcher Nolan Garcia said, “Physicians should consider Chagas when patients have swelling and enlargement of the heart not caused by high blood pressure, diabetes or other causes, even if they do not have a history of travel.”

The World Health Organization says Chagas presents in two phases. In the acute phase, a large amount of parasites circulate in the blood. Some people show no symptoms at all, while others may have fever, headache and chest pains along with other symptoms.

In the chronic phase, the parasites are mainly in the heart and digestive muscle. Around 30% of patients suffer from a heart disorder and 10% suffer from a digestive disorder.

When discovered early, Chagas can be treated [but not cured] with medication. As with most illnesses, doctors say the earlier you catch it the better.



DEADLY “KISSING BUG” HAS INFILTRATED FLORIDA…aka “Love Bug” and cousin to the BEDBUG – all transmit DEADLY CHAGAS disease

November 28, 2015 

The CDC reports the Kissing Bug has been discovered in the Southeastern U.S., including Florida. (Source: CBS4)

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — New warnings have been issued by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the potentially deadly Chagas Disease from the kissing bug in Florida.

The bugs have invaded the southern United States, including Florida.

The infected inch-long Triatomine bugs carrying the parasite can pass it through bites. The bites are typically around the mouth and face, which is how they get their nickname “kissing bugs.”

Once in the body, the parasite can remain hidden for years, or even decades, eventually resulting in heart disease.

According to the CDC, it estimates about 8 million people are infected worldwide. Most of the infected are reportedly in Central and South America.

The CDC reports that infections have been reported in Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas.

Dogs Lives Matter – Could be Thousands Infected with Chagas

Studies show dogs highly at risk for deadly Chagas disease

Stott Friedman, Eva Parks and Dr. Seema Yasmin | November 17, 2015

An NBC 5 investigation found hundreds of dogs in Texas are infected with the deadly parasite that causes Chagas disease.

For months, NBC 5 Senior Investigative Reporter Scott Friedman teamed up with The Dallas Morning News’ Dr. Seema Yasmin to investigate a hidden threat known as The Kissing Bug, which has infected at least a dozen people in Texas.

In Texas the disease has infected family pets; prized hunting dogs and even military K-9’s that protect U.S. troops. Right now, no one seems to know exactly how many more dogs could be at risk.

Meet Kiska, a Japanese Spitz, a rare dog breed kept alive with a pacemaker.

“My husband called me and said Kiska fell over,” said Cora Fortin, who at the time lived in Plano.

Kiska kept collapsing. A vet in Plano said Kiska’s only hope was a pacemaker operation at Texas A&M in College Statio“She was passing out all the way down there, so we didn’t know if she would make it,” said Fortin.

Kiska survived but what caused her heart to fail was a bigger surprise. It was Chagas disease, caused by a rare parasite transmitted by kissing bugs.

Chagas is usually found in tropical climates of Mexico, South and Central America. But cases of locally transmitted Chagas disease have not been documented in Texas until more recently.

Fortin wants people to know dogs can get this disease in Collin County. But it’s not just there.

All over the state there are cases of dogs getting sick with Chagas, many of them showing up for treatment at the Texas A&M Veterinary School.

“I diagnosed a little Yorkie that lived in Downtown Dallas not too long ago, so yes, it’s everywhere,” said Dr. Ashley Saunders, a veterinary cardiologist with Texas A&M.

In some cases the dogs are so sick there’s no saving them.

“I think we shock a lot of people and I think it’s one of the hardest things for me is we have some clients who come in and they have no idea the disease even exists,” said Saunders.

Researchers at Texas A&M tested dogs at animal shelters statewide and found many shelter dogs have Chagas.

“The study that just wrapped up, about 10 percent of dogs across the state were infected,” said Sarah Hamer, Texas A&M researcher.

Officially the Texas Department of State Health Services reports 351 dogs with Chagas since the state began tracking it two years ago.

Tom Sidwa, State Public Health Veterinarian with the Texas Department of State Health Services, said there’s no doubt Chagas will grow and kill more dogs in the state.

However, it’s hard to estimate the total number of dogs infected because many dogs are never tested.

“So many of the dogs seen are young dogs that are just really hit hard by the disease … and sometimes, sudden death,” said Sidwa.

It’s already killed U.S. Military working dogs in Texas.

At Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, about 70 military working dogs have been infected in the last nine years.

Bomb, drug and patrol dogs train at Lackland to serve with U.S. troops all over the world.

“When one of these dogs become sick, and for any reason can’t do its job that’s a major loss because that whole team is taken out they’re not able to perform their mission,” Col. Cheryl Sofaly, Director of the DOD Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base.

Some dogs with Chagas are still working, but ones that develop more serious symptoms are retired from service.

“If they’ve got heart disease that makes it very hard for them to do that job effectively,” said Sofaly.

Losing a military dog is expensive. It costs about $20,000 to train each one.

When Chagas first surfaced here in 2006, military veterinarians worked to track down the source.

A search of the base turned up bugs in and around kennels where the dogs sleep.

Dogs that sleep outside and hunting dogs are more likely to be infected. The bugs like wooded areas and bite at night. Because dogs sometimes eat infected bugs it may be even easier for them to become infected than people.

That’s how the Fortin’s suspect Kiska got sick.

“One day she brought this strange looking insect into the house,” said Fortin.

Before they could snatch it away, she ate it.

Recently, Kiska has developed more symptoms including an enlarged heart.

“We just really don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Fortin.

There’s no cure, so the Fortin’s appreciate every day.

“She’s totally a member of the family and we will be devastated when the day comes we lose her,” said Fortin.

At Lackland, the military has been able to reduce the number of new cases of Chagas by putting up screens around the kennels and by treating the areas with pesticides, but they are still seeing about 4-5 new cases a year in dogs.

To protect your pets, veterinarians suggest keeping them indoors late at night and don’t let them sleep outside.

Keep piles of wood and brush away from your home and any area where small animals might nest will attract the bugs.

If your dog coughs, has shortness of breath and has fainting spells, it’s worth asking your vet about Chagas.

[Reporting from behind.  A. Steiner.]

Where have they been? Deadly ‘kissing bug’ spreads to other states besides Texas

Fox_Boston   November 23, 2015 | Boston, MA

A deadly insect known as the “kissing bug” has recently been reported in Georgia and possibly Pennsylvania, as well as Texas.

Texas officials said recently at least 12 people in their state have been infected with a parasite connected to the insect.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the insects — called triatomine bugs — may carry a parasite that causes Chagas disease, which — if left untreated — can cause sudden death. Kissing bugs get their nickname because they favor biting human faces and lips at night.

It was not clear exactly where in Georgia the insect was reported, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In Pittsburgh, after an on-air report about the bug, viewers sent in photos to WPXI  and a curator at the Pittsburgh Zoo said the photos did appear to show “kissing bugs.” However, the station reported that no cases of Chagas disease had been confirmed in Pennsylvania.


How to protect against the ‘kissing bug’

The CDC says that the bugs are typically found anywhere from under porches or cement, in animal burrows, chicken coops or even outdoor dog houses or kennels.

To keep the insects away from your home, the CDC says to use the following precautions:

  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows, walls, roofs, and doors
  • Remove wood, brush, and rock piles near your house
  • Use screens on doors and windows and repairing any holes or tears
  • If possible, make sure yard lights are not close to your house (lights can attract the bugs)
  • Seal holes and cracks leading to the attic, crawl spaces below the house, and to the outside
  • Have pets sleep indoors, especially at night
  • Keep your house and any outdoor pet resting areas clean, in addition to periodically checking both areas for the presence of bugs

If you think you’ve found a triatomine bug, the CDC urges not to touch or squash the bug, but place a container on top of it, slide the bug inside and fill it with rubbing alcohol.

If you do not have rubbing alcohol available, the CDC says to freeze the bug in the container before you take it to your local extension service or university laboratory.

Report: Deadly ‘kissing bug’ in North Carolina

Charlotte, NC | November 23, 2015


A deadly insect know as the “kissing bug” has made it’s way to North Carolina, according to the CDC.

The bug has been in headlines lately for popping up around the south, especially in Texas.

It carries a parasite that causes ‘Chagas’ disease.

The CDC says now is a good time to double check around the house for cracks and holes, because they tend to hide under beds and mattresses.

If you find the bug the CDC says do not touch it.

Put a container on top of it and fill it with rubbing alcohol, or freeze it.

This bug could give you the ‘kiss’ of death

Misstated info on Video 1.5 Million in US infected CHAGAS & 50 million World Wide with 15 to 20,000 deaths annually.

Nov. 19 Video transcript provided by

Texas health officials say “kissing bugs” have infected at least 12 people with a parasite that has the potential to kill.

“I’ve never left the United States. I’ve never even been on a cruise,” a woman told KXAS.


Video still via Newsy

“I was infected right here in Texas.”

Kissing bugs get their nickname because they favor biting human faces and lips at night. The parasite they leave behind causes Chagas disease. The bugs and parasite are usually only found in the tropics.

The disease has an acute phase much like the flu to start. Then it transitions into a chronic phase, during which up to 30 percent of people develop heart problems and 10 percent develop gastrointestinal issues.

In rare cases, Chagas disease can end in death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 8 million people in Mexico and Central and South America are infected with Chagas disease, yet most don’t even know it.

There’s no approved treatment for the disease. The CDC only has experimental drugs, which reportedly can be up to 85 percent effective, but they have to be taken soon after a person is infected.

Most counties in Texas have reported kissing bug sightings. (Video via KXAS)

KXAS reports the rise in infections is likely due to the growth of suburbs on land infested with the bugs rather than the bugs coming into the state.

This video includes images from Glenn Seplak / CC BY 2.0 and Simon Fraser University – University Communications / CC BY 2.0.

The Hidden Threat: The Kissing Bug


These seven tropical diseases are closer to home than you think. Lurking in your Dallas-area backyard is Chagas disease, caused by a parasite that infects more than 300,000 Americans. The disease can cause heart failure and death in humans and dogs and is often missed by doctors.

Or maybe you live near a typhus hot spot such as Houston? Spread by rat-biting fleas, typhus causes headaches, fever, chills and a rash.

Farther north, close to the Oklahoma border, Texans have been plagued by skin boils and sores caused by a disease called leishmaniasis — also known as the Baghdad boil. Many have suffered for years because doctors have misdiagnosed them with staph infections and given them the wrong treatment.

You’ve already heard of West Nile virus, another tropical disease that has strong-armed its way into Texas. West Nile virus has infected close to 5,000 Texans since 2002. But the real number of humans infected is probably 25,000, since about 80 percent of people who are infected don’t show symptoms.

Now get ready to meet two new tropical diseases on their way to you. Dengue and chikungunya are viruses spread by mosquitoes. Common in the Caribbean and South America, they’re being lured to the U.S. by a combination of rising temperatures and poverty.

Don’t expect your doctor to save you from these tropical diseases. Medical students spend a few days learning about this group of infections, and studies show that many health care providers in Texas and the U.S. are unaware that these infections are here or on their way.

Americans living with diseases such as Chagas can go undiagnosed for many years, by which time the infection can cause irreversible damage to the heart.

Dr. Seema Yasmin’s reporting on this project was undertaken while she was a National Health Journalism Fellow at the University of Southern California’s Center for Health Journalism. Yasmin, a physician and former CDC epidemiologist, is a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Not just tropical

Kissing Bug

Chagas disease

About: A parasite spread by the blood-sucking kissing bug — so-called because the bug likes to bite us on the face around the lips and eyes. Kissing bugs poop where they eat, and when we scratch the bite, we rub the poop and the parasite into our skin. About a third of people infected with the parasite, called Trypanosoma cruzi, develop heart disease. One in 10 suffer digestive or nerve issues.


Spread by: The dime-sized kissing bug, which lives in rats’ nests and wood piles and in the nooks of furniture and cracks in homes.


Symptoms: Swollen eyelids, breathing problems, chest pain, heart failure, death.


Testing: Blood test.

Treatment: Anti-parasitic drugs that can be 60 percent to 85 percent effective if given early.


Illustrations by Troy Oxford/The Dallas Morning News

A Fatal Flaw

Blood supply system lacks key safeguards against dreaded Chagas disease

Blood centers screen first-time donors for the disease with a one-off test. Donors who test negative are never screened again and are able to donate blood repeatedly.

New technology that inactivates contagious diseases in donated blood is used to protect the blood supply in some states but not in Texas.


Chagas disease, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, can lead to heart failure and sudden death. Globally, about 11 million people are infected. An estimated 300,000 live in the U.S. The parasite can hide in heart muscle and the gut for two to three decades before causing symptoms.

One in every 6,500 blood donors in Texas are infected with the parasite that causes Chagas disease, according to researchers at the National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston. That compares with one in every 27,500 donors across the U.S.

The rate is higher in some parts of South Texas, where an estimated 1 in 3,000 donors are infected, experts say. Half of the infected donors acquired the disease in Texas.

Blood centers began voluntarily testing donors for the parasite in 2007. Since then, blood screening has identified more than 2,000 infected donors.

The parasite is spread to humans and dogs through the bite of a kissing bug, an insect that lives in rats’ nests or wood piles or in the nooks of furniture or cracks in homes. Chagas disease is also spread through pregnancy from mother to baby, as well as through organ transplants and blood transfusions.

But blood donors are tested only once for Chagas disease under the current protocol outlined by the Food and Drug Administration. First-time donors who have a negative test are never screened again.

Three federal agencies work with blood banks to monitor threats to the blood supply. The FDA sets guidelines for blood screening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention performs disease surveillance, and the National Institutes of Health researches the science of blood safety.

Nearly 10 million Americans donate blood each year. Four components of donated blood — red cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate — are given to an estimated 5 million patients a year.

Blood is screened for HIV, syphilis, West Nile virus, hepatitis B and C and other viruses and bacteria each time a person donates blood. New technologies that inactivate blood pathogens including HIV, malaria and the parasite that causes Chagas disease have been recently approved by the FDA.


One of these technologies, the INTERCEPT Blood System, has been used in 20 European countries since 2003. It is now used by some blood centers in Florida and Delaware, and there are plans for its use within the next year at a Colorado blood center and at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

The system, made by Cerus Corp. in Concord, Calif., works on plasma and platelets. It uses a chemical that latches on to the genes of various pathogens. The blood is then exposed to ultraviolet light, which tightly binds the chemical to the genes so the pathogens cannot replicate. Plasma and platelets are not affected because they don’t contain genes.

Blood centers in Texas are not using the technology. Blood screening guidelines set out by the FDA do not call for the use of systems such as INTERCEPT. But states and blood centers can choose to go above and beyond federal guidelines.

“We do still screen donors for Chagas by asking them about their health,” said Dr. Laurie Sutor, vice president of medical and technical services at Carter BloodCare, the largest blood supplier in Texas.

“We ask if they feel well,” said Sutor, referring to a questionnaire that donors fill in before they give blood.

But many people infected with Chagas disease feel well for decades. That’s because the parasite can lie dormant for 20 to 30 years before causing heart and gut symptoms.

One in three people infected with the parasite will develop chest pain, fatigue and breathlessness from heart failure that can be fatal. One in 10 suffer damage to the nerves and gut. Between 1 percent and 10 percent of pregnant women pass the parasite on to their babies.

“Americans are sitting ducks waiting for an epidemic to happen,” said Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer at Cerus. From 2002 to 2015, Benjamin was chief medical officer at the American Red Cross, where he supervised donor and patient safety.

One-time screening might be appropriate in states where Chagas disease is not common, he said, but in Texas, where rates are higher, there should be a more rigorous protocol.

Sutor disagrees. “The experts in our field feel that the current screening methods are accurate even in Texas because the evidence right now is that Chagas is not being transmitted by blood transfusions,” she said.

The CDC and FDA say that Chagas disease can be spread by blood transfusions. In a 2010 FDA guidance document for blood banks, the agency said that transfusion-related Chagas disease infections are “not likely to be diagnosed, and in many cases, even if symptoms appear, infection may not be recognized.”

Seven people have been infected with Chagas disease after receiving blood transfusions in the U.S. and Canada, according to the FDA. Five have been infected after organ transplantation. Since screening began, two people have been infected from platelet transfusions.

The same FDA document says that in Los Angeles, one in every 2,000 blood donors may be infected with the Chagas-causing parasite. “That’s really a very high number,” said Benjamin. “Much higher than for any other infectious disease that we deal with routinely, like hepatitis or HIV.”

The FDA declined to be interviewed, as did the chair of its blood safety committee. In an emailed statement, an FDA spokesperson said the agency continues to work with the CDC and National Institutes of Health to monitor threats to blood safety and ensure that the medical community is aware of risks associated with blood transfusions.

Another tropical disease that can spread through transfusions is West Nile virus. By the time blood banks started screening for the virus in 2003, at least 23 people had been infected by tainted blood.

West Nile virus and the parasite that causes Chagas disease aren’t the only tropical agents threatening the safety of the blood supply.

Chikungunya, a virus spread by mosquitoes, has caused outbreaks in the Caribbean in recent years, and experts warn that it could become established in Texas.

The risk is that when a traveler brings the virus to Texas, the virus could circulate among local mosquitoes and become established in mosquitoes and humans.

A chikungunya epidemic in Puerto Rico last year forced a shutdown of the local platelet donation system. The American Red Cross stopped accepting donations from locals and had to import platelets from the continental U.S.

Benjamin fears a similar situation could occur in Texas.

“I’m concerned, and I think there should be a more general concern than there seems to be,” he said. “It’s time to consider Chagas again and look to see if what we are doing is correct or not.”