Woman warns – her dog was given ‘kiss of death’ from Kissing Bug bite

April 3, 2016 | by Nestor Mato | CBS 4 News

Many triatomine bugs carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease.

San Benito woman warns about potentially deadly Chagas disease spread by ‘kissing bug’

For Lisa Leal’s dog, a bug bite became the kiss of death.

A triatomine bug — commonly called a kissing bug — bit her 8-month-old dog.”I feel bad because she’s been given, literally, a death sentence,” said Leal, who lives in San Benito.

Many triatomine bugs carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease.

“The bugs are found in houses made from materials such as mud, adobe, straw, and palm thatch. During the day, the bugs hide in crevices in the walls and roofs,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. “During the night, when the inhabitants are sleeping, the bugs emerge. Because they tend to feed on people’s faces, triatomine bugs are also known as ‘kissing bugs.'”

Chagas disease may later cause intestinal and cardiac complications, including sudden death.

Leal’s dog is already suffering heart problems.

Veterinarian Noel Ramirez said there’s no sure way to avoid Chagas disease.

“It happens within city limits. It happens out in the country,” Ramirez said. “There’s not a whole lot of prevention that we can do.”

In humans, Chagas disease can be diagnosed with a blood test. Treatment varies depending on the symptoms.


Deadly Chagas disease in the U.S., affecting people and animals – primarily dogs. Watch out for “kissing bugs”, aka “love bugs”.

November 18, 2015 | by Robert Herriman | Outbreak News Today

Chagas disease, the parasitic infection caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, is found mainly in Latin America, where it is mostly transmitted to humans by the feces of triatomine bugs, known as “kissing bugs”.

The Triatoma or “kissing” bug. Image/CDC

However, in several areas of the United States Chagas is ever present, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, who told me in 2013 the number of cases of Chagas disease in the United States to be somewhere between 300,000 and 1 million. The United States is ranked 7th among nations for the amount of cases.

Texas is definitely one state that is battling the neglected tropical disease. According to Texas health officials:

In Texas, approximately 45% of the collected triatomine bugs have tested positive for T. cruzi, and Chagas is considered an endemic disease in dogs. From 2013 to 2014, 351 cases of Chagas disease in animals, primarily dogs, were reported from approximately 20% of Texas counties, representing all geographic regions of the state. Locally-acquired human cases are uncommon, but some have been reported. From 2013 to 2014, 39 human cases of Chagas disease were reported: 24 were acquired in another country, 12 were locally-acquired, and the location of acquisition was unknown for 3.

Local transmission means that the kissing bugs in Texas are infected with the parasite, causing it to spread to humans.

Chagas disease is transmitted naturally in North, Central, and South America. In parts of Mexico and Central and South America, where Chagas disease is considered highly endemic, it is estimated that approximately 8 million people are infected.

Chagas in Texas/Texas Department of Health

The Triatoma or “kissing” bug frequently carry for life the parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi. T. cruzi is a comma shaped flagellated parasite and the cause of an acute and chronic disease called Chagas.

The triatoma bug can be found in poorly constructed homes, with cracks and crevices in the walls or those with thatch roofs. They can also be found in palm trees and the fronds.

Usually at night while sleeping, the insect feeds on people or other mammals. While feeding the insect defecates and the infected feces gets rubbed into the bite wound, eyes abrasions or other skin wounds.

The parasite invades macrophages at or near the site of entry. Here they transform, multiply and rupture from the cells 4-5 days later and enter the blood stream and tissue spaces.

Initial infection with Chagas is typically asymptomatic. Acute disease may manifest symptoms after a couple of weeks.

Reddening of the skin (Chagoma) or edema around the eye (Romana’s sign) may be seen, albeit uncommon.

Fever, malaise, enlarged liver and spleen are part of the acute syndrome. 10% of people develop acute myocaditis with congestive heart failure. This acute disease can be fatal.

After a latent period which may last for years, the infected person may develop chronic disease (20-40%). The most serious consequences are cardiomyopathy (in certain areas it’s the leading cause of death in men less than 45 years of age) and megacolon/megaesophogus.

Trypanosoma cruzi can also be transmitted via congenital transmission (mother to baby), through blood transfusions and organ transplants, and some cases of transmission through feces contaminated food.

About 150 mammals beside humans may serve as reservoirs of the parasite. Dogs, cats, opossoms and rats are among the animals.

Benznidazole and nifurtimox are 100 percent effective in killing the parasite and curing the disease, but only if given soon after infection at the onset of the acute phase, according to the WHO.

There is no vaccine for Chaga’s, so preventive measures should include insecticide spraying of infested houses.


California study examines genetic diversity of Kissing Bugs…concludes deadly Chagas disease may be underdiagnosed in U.S.

January 21, 2016 | MedicalXpress.com

Trypanosoma cruzi is a protozoan parasite that can cause an insidious onset of Chagas disease, a fatal cardiac disease in humans and dogs. The parasite is transmitted via triatomine insects, commonly called kissing bugs. In Latin America T. cruzi is recognized as an economically important parasite; however, there is limited research regarding its spread and virulence in the USA. As a result, while the genetic diversity of the T. cruzi parasite has been well studied in Latin America less is known about the strains endemic to the USA.

“Chagas disease should be considered as a potential cause of cardiac illness in humans and dogs.”

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine assessed the prevalence of T. cruzi from northern and southern California regions. The researchers used a combination of methods to obtain triatomine insects, including active collection via black light traps and the enlistment of private property owners and public health officials in specimen submission. DNA was extracted from the specimens and screened for T. cruzi via molecular techniques. Positive samples were genetically typed into one of six recognized T. cruzi subgroups (TcI – TcVI). Finally, the researchers performed genetic analyses to examine the potential virulence of the California T. cruzi samples as compared to infective T. cruzi strains from Latin America.

Of the 29 specimens from northern California 55% were infected, while T. cruzi was detected in 34% of the 53 samples collected from one of the southern California locations. Two separate subtypes were found—with 20 parasites falling into the TcI subgroup and 2 into TcIV. The TcIV subgroup was not detected in the northern California region. Genetic analyses did not reveal any particular unique characteristics to distinguish the California samples from several Latin American strains known to infect humans.

This research suggests that the apparent rarity of locally-acquired Chagas disease in the USA is unlikely due to any genetic difference in the infectious capabilities of the parasite. Rather, the fact that local triatomine species (e.g. Triatoma protracta) do not frequently colonize human homes, likely translates to decreased T. cruzi transmission. Alternatively, locally-acquired Chagas disease may simply be underdiagnozed. At present only four states in the USA list Chagas disease as a reportable illness, and California is not among them. This means that the public, as well as physicians and veterinary practitioners, may have decreased awareness of the dangers posed by this disease.

Based on this research, in areas where Triatoma protracta populations are evident, Chagas disease should be considered as a potential cause of cardiac illness in humans and dogs.

The study is published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Blood tests POSITIVE in 48 states for deadly Chagas disease. Tropical diseases SURGE in America with open borders

December 23, 2015 | by Julie Wilson | Medicine.News

A resurgence of tropical diseases is occurring in America’s Southwest, presenting troublesome risks for its citizens, as well as physicians unfamiliar with treating them. Several factors contribute to this new phenomenon, including hot and humid climates, an increase in the number of insects carrying tropical diseases, poverty, and the influx of illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S. from parts of Latin America, such as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Houston, Texas, has especially been affected due to its wet and muggy climate, which is perfectly suitable for disease-carrying insects. It’s become such a problem, that infectious disease physician Peter Hotez founded a school of tropical medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, located within a territory that the doctor says “is one of the world’s ten hotspots for so-called neglected tropical diseases,” reports Medical Xpress.

“While we were calling them neglected tropical diseases, the ‘tropical’ part is probably a misnomer,” Dr. Hotez says. “Most of the world’s neglected tropical diseases are in wealthy countries. It’s the poor living among the wealthy.”

Some of the so-called “tropical” diseases being observed by the medical community include Chagas disease, neurocysticercosis (a parasitic disease that infects the brain), dengue virus, chikungunya virus, river blindness and cutaneous leishmaniasis.

Doctors say patients contracting these diseases are by no means world travelers, and instead have caught them at home in the U.S.

Chagas disease is spread by a group of insects called Triatoma, or “kissing bugs,” and is one of the most threatening tropical diseases emerging in Texas. Kissing bugs normally bite near the mouth and defecate afterwards, leaving parasitic-laden feces on the host’s skin. Scratching the wound can allow the parasites to enter into the body through broken skin, or can spread to other places if an individual touches the bite mark with their fingers and then their eyes or mouth.

The parasites can chew through cardiac muscle, eventually causing heart failure if left untreated. Chagas disease is incredibly common in Latin America, infecting an estimated 8 million people, and is also one of the primary causes of heart failure, resulting in about 11,000 deaths per year, Medical Xpress reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention originally estimated that one in 300,000 Americans was infected with Chagas disease; however, a 2014 study found that it’s more like one out of 6,500 people – nearly 50 times the CDC’s estimate.

Sahotra Sarkar, a disease ecologist working for the University of Texas, published research in 2010 stating that residents of southern Texas are at a “very, very high risk” for contracting Chagas disease. Further studies found that more than half of the kissing bugs in Texas were infected with T. cruzi, the parasite responsible for causing the disease.

Chagas disease endemic in Texas

After mapping out infection rates, scientists learned that Chagas disease posed the highest risk in the southeastern part of Texas, but was also persistent in the bayous of Louisiana and in San Antonio.

Poverty is largely to blame for the spread of tropical diseases. Take for example the conditions in Houston’s Fifth Ward, the metropolitan’s poorest neighborhood, where HIV infections are twice as high as the rest of the city.

“Its poverty levels are also reflected in the housing. Stagnant water collects in streets, sidewalks and yards, providing the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Ripped and missing window screens provide plenty of opportunities for mosquitoes and other vectors to bite humans. Stray dogs roam the streets … ” reports Medical Xpress. “Conditions like these foster the spread of tropical diseases, whether in the USA or anywhere else.”

“There’s been a gradual rise in the economies of all nations…but it’s leaving behind a bottom segment of society, and that bottom segment of society is who gets the neglected tropical diseases,” says Dr. Hotez.


Nothing has changed…the cure for ‘silent killer’ CHAGAS remains elusive

Harvard School of Public Health

April 30, 2014 | by Karen Feldscher

Barbara Burleigh, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases, studies Chagas disease, a leading cause of infectious heart failure. The disease is a major health and economic burden in Latin America, where it’s endemic, with roughly 8 million people infected and another 100 million individuals at risk of infection, mostly in rural, resource-poor settings.

Have you seen one of these on your deck?
How does Chagas disease cause infectious heart failure, and does it affect many people in the U.S?

Chagas is one of a group of so-called “neglected tropical diseases”—diseases that mainly affect the poorest countries and that have typically been overlooked because of the world’s focus on the “big three” diseases with the highest mortality rates: HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.In people with Chagas disease, it takes decades after the initial infection for severe symptoms to appear—which is why the disease is sometimes referred to as “the silent killer.” Symptoms include heart failure as well as severe swelling of the esophagus and/or colon, which greatly interferes with digestion. Chagas appears in people chronically infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, typically transmitted via contact with the feces of a blood-sucking insect called the triatomine, or “kissing bug.” Although triatomine bugs are found in the U.S.—mostly in the southern half of the country—people here have rarely been infected through bug bites, because the bugs thrive mainly in cracks and holes in houses made of mud or adobe or thatch—the kind of housing you’ll find in poorer countries. So, in the U.S., Chagas infections come mostly from infected blood or from mother-to-baby transmission, and are on the rise because of new immigration from Latin America. About 300,000 are infected in the U.S., and it’s estimated that Chagas-related health care costs top $100 million annually. While insect control measures in Latin America and donor blood screening both there and in the U.S. have helped lower the incidence of new cases of Chagas disease, more needs to be done. There’s no vaccine for the disease and the two Chagas drugs available—nifurtimox and benznidazole—can provide a cure only if taken very soon after the initial infection. That means that costs will continue to rise for those with Chagas disease, who are often infected as children, develop heart failure at relatively young ages (40s and 50s), and who may require extensive cardiac care, including heart transplants.

What sparked your interest in studying this “neglected” disease?

Since I was a graduate student, I have gravitated toward parasitic diseases that impact populations in the developing world. It is the fascinating biology of the Chagas disease parasite, T. cruzi, that attracted me initially, but the fact that this is a neglected disease afflicting millions motivates me to find ways to combat it. There is still so much to learn about how this pathogen establishes and maintains infection that persists for decades, and about the cellular and metabolic processes involved. Gaining insights into these processes at the molecular level will have significant implications for the understanding and treatment of chronic Chagas disease.

How close do you think we are to finding an effective way to combat this disease?

It’s hard to say. For a long time, Chagas was neglected because pharmaceutical companies don’t see poverty-stricken populations as a market. Now, with increased emphasis on developing drugs to combat neglected tropical diseases—supported by the U.S. government, the World Health Organization, and other nongovernmental organizations and nonprofits—the Chagas disease agenda has gained traction. While some new compounds look promising, recent clinical trials in humans have been disappointing. These failures suggest a complexity associated with persistent human infection that we do not understand. It’s possible that the parasite is able to adapt in order to avoid harm from the medications being used. By studying this possibility at the molecular level, we might be able to pinpoint the mechanisms at play in Chagas disease—which could lead to the development of more effective drugs to fight it.

America’s War on the Kissing Bug – aka ‘Love Bug’ and Cousin to the Bed Bug, that is found in ALL 50 states – ALL transmit and spread deadly Chagas disease NO CURE

Kissing Bugs transmit Deadly Chagas – in Texas – Found a Kissing Bug – Don’t Touch – cousin to the BEDBUG

November 30, 2015 | Source:  http://kissingbug.tamu.edu

What are kissing bugs?

Kissing bugs are insects that may be infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease. They are commonly known as cone-nose bugs or chinches. Kissing bugs feed on blood during the night, and they are called kissing bugs because they prefer to bite humans around the mouth or eyes.

FOUND A KISSING BUG?  Precautions and Procedure

Citizen science offers the opportunity for non-scientists and scientists to work together to collect large amounts of data. This project is currently seeing the help of citizen scientists (like you!) to submit carefully collected kissing bugs from Texas and throughout the U.S. We are interested in learning more about the distribution of different species of kissing bugs, their infection prevalence over time, and their interactions with host species. If you have come across a suspected kissing bug in or around your home, kennel, yard, or other area, we are interested in hearing about it!

HANDLING Safety Precautions

Please do not ever touch a kissing bug with your bare hands! The T. cruzi parasite occurs in the feces of kissing bugs, and their bodies may be contaminated. A glove or small plastic bag may be used to catch the bug to avoid direct contact with the bug. The bug may be stored in a sealed plastic bag, in a vial, or other small container. All surfaces with which the bug came into contact should be thoroughly cleaned with a bleach solution.

KISSING BUGS How to Identify

Kissing bugs can be recognized by their ‘cone-shaped’ head, thin antennae, and thin legs. All of the U.S. species are mainly black or very dark brown, with red, orange or yellow ‘stripes’ around the edge. Their bites are generally not painful (since their goal is to bite and feed without being detected), and they are mainly active at dusk or night. Some of the most common species in Texas are shown here:

CHAGAS – Two-thirds of the Country have reported on; there is no cure; and now transmitted by Bedbugs

Chagas Disease: An Emerging Public Health Concern

Chagas Disease Fact Sheet PDF

Enfermedad de Chagas PDF

FDA.gov | On April 28, 2015, FDA met with patients during one of FDA’s Patient-Focused Drug Development meetings to discuss patients’ concerns regarding their symptoms and treatment options for Chagas disease. These meetings are important as patients have the opportunity to convey their concerns about current medications and the types of medications they would like to see in the future.

No drugs have yet been shown to meet standards of safety and efficacy for FDA approval for the treatment of Chagas’ disease, but several potential treatments are in various stages of clinical investigation. Two investigational drugs are available through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at a doctor’s request.

  • Benznidazole
  • Nifurtimox

What is Chagas Disease?

Chagas’ disease is a parasitic infection caused by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite. It primarily affects people living in rural parts of Latin America. Recent estimates are that there may be approximately 300,000 persons in the U.S with Chagas’ disease who acquired the infection in areas where the disease is relatively common.

Most people with Chagas disease experience only mild or no symptoms and so they don’t realize that they are infected. Only rarely do infected persons experience life-threatening disease in the days to weeks after they are infected (early or acute phase). The infection persists for years and some persons go on to develop serious heart problems or gastrointestinal tract problems years or decades after they have been infected (late or chronic phase). While the diagnosis can be made with blood tests in both early and late phases, many of those infected may never be diagnosed as they may have no symptoms or only very mild symptoms that resolve on their own.

How is Chagas Disease Transmitted?

In endemic areas, Chagas disease is most commonly spread from insects to humans. The Trypanosoma cruzi parasite is found in the feces of an infected blood-sucking triatomine bug. The parasite from the bug’s feces enters the body through an open wound or mucous membrane.

Others forms of transmission include:

  • Congenital transmission (mother-to-baby)
  • Blood transfusion
  • Organ transplant
  • Accidental laboratory exposure
  • Consuming contaminated food/drink (this usually occurs in outbreaks in endemic areas)

What are the Early and Late Phases of Chagas Disease?

Chagas disease has two phases: an early (or acute) phase and a late (or chronic) phase.

  • Acute Phase: Lasts a few weeks to 2-3 months
  • Chronic Phase: Can last many years, or decades

Soon after becoming infected, during the early (acute) phase of disease, persons may experience mild, non-specific symptoms such as fevers, body aches, tiredness, and swelling around the site where the parasite entered the body.

Most people do not develop medical problems early after becoming infected. Very infrequently (generally less than 1% of the time) the early phase of the disease can be fatal. Because the symptoms of early disease are usually mild and resolve without treatment, most people are not aware that they have been infected.

After the early phase of disease, the infection can persist for years.   During the late or chronic phase, some persons (about one third) go on to develop serious heart problems or problems with the gastrointestinal tract over the years or decades after infection. Deaths from heart disease are common in this chronic phase and can occur suddenly. Persons with immune disorders, such as HIV or organ transplant patients, are at higher risk of having more severe symptoms.

How is Chagas Disease diagnosed?

Chagas disease can be diagnosed with blood tests. Many infected persons may not be diagnosed as they may have no symptoms or very mild symptoms at the time of infection that resolved on their own.

Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative Program

In 2010, FDA launched a Neglected Tropical Disease Initiative to support the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of neglected tropical diseases. This initiative was established to identify regulatory pathways and effective approaches to clinical trials to speed the development of new drugs and diagnostics for preventing and treating neglected tropical diseases such as Chagas disease.

US and Mexico Must Jointly Combat Chagas Disease


Rice University

HOUSTON – Nov. 2, 2015 – Chagas disease — the third most common parasitic infection in the world — affects approximately 7.5 million people, mostly in Latin America. To help reduce outbreaks of this disease in their countries, the United States and Mexican governments should implement a range of programs as well as fund research for the development of Chagas vaccines and treatments, according to a new policy brief by tropical-disease and science policy experts at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

The paper, “Chagas Disease: Sharing the Burden and the Solutions in the United States and Mexico,” was co-authored by Kirstin Matthews, fellow in science and technology policy, and Jennifer Herricks, postdoctoral fellow in disease and poverty.

“Traditionally, Chagas disease is commonly believed to afflict only the poor in rural parts of Latin America,” Matthews said. “However, the migration of infected humans, animals and insects has brought the parasite causing the disease, T. cruzi, to other parts of the world, including the U.S. and Mexico. Through cross-border collaborations, the two countries’ governments can take steps to reduce the risk of Chagas disease by increasing awareness among health care providers and the community to protect their most vulnerable citizens, implementing control and surveillance programs and developing novel treatments for acute and chronic Chagas disease.”

T. cruzi is not normally transmitted from person to person but is spread through insects called triatomines, also known as “kissing bugs.” Kissing bugs spread Chagas disease directly to humans through their feces. The term “kissing bug” is used because the triatomine usually takes a blood meal from around the face when a person is asleep outside or in a housing structure that allows the bugs to get inside. As the bug feeds, it also defecates. When the person rubs the irritated spot, they unintentionally rub the bug’s feces, containing the parasite, into an open wound or into the eye. From there the parasite can enter the bloodstream.

Without treatment, some patients, mostly children and immune-compromised individuals, will progress to myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) or meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the central nervous system), which can be fatal. Pregnant women with the disease can experience miscarriage and preterm labor. T. cruzi can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, a condition known as congenital Chagas disease. This condition represents over one-quarter of the world’s cases.

The biggest risk factor associated with contracting Chagas disease is poverty, especially extreme poverty. An estimated 1.6 million households in the U.S. and 5 million people in Mexico live in extreme poverty and earn less than $2 per person per day. Many of these impoverished individuals are living in poor-quality homes that may sometimes lack basic utilities, air conditioning and indoor plumbing, which increases their risk of exposure to the insects that can spread diseases, including Chagas.

In Mexico, Chagas disease is estimated to impact 1.1 million to 5.5 million people, and yet research suggests that less than 0.5 percent of infected individuals are able to access treatment for the disease, the authors said.

In the U.S., the impact of Chagas disease is greatest in California and Texas in terms of estimated numbers of cases. Despite the fact that many states are affected by Chagas, the disease is formally reportable in only three states: Texas, Arizona and Tennessee. In Texas, approximately 50 percent of kissing bugs and 20 percent of dogs are estimated to be infected with the T. cruzi parasite. Conservative assessments suggest that there are 300,000 people living with Chagas in the U.S., but other estimates suggest nearly a million people in the country — 300,000 in Texas alone — may have Chagas disease, the authors said.

To help those infected with T. cruzi, the U.S. and Mexico should fund initiatives directed toward new treatments for Chagas disease — at both the acute and chronic stages, according to the authors. “Unfortunately, since the poor are the most likely to be affected by Chagas disease, there is not a great financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs,” Herricks said. “However, philanthropic organizations and government-funding agencies can help push for increased research, and new public-private partnerships with pharmaceutical companies can fund development to ensure treatments are accessible to vulnerable populations.”