Kissing Bug Disease, a Chagas Disease More Deadly
What is Kissing Bug Disease? Kissing bug disease is a Chagas Disease spread by insects given the name “kissing bugs”, they are very deadly and they infect humans by biting them on or around the lips while they are asleep. After the initial bite, the kissing bugs then discharge feces from the body into the wound, spreading Chagas Disease through their fectar matter or potentially releasing an infectious parasite called Trypanasoma cruzi.
This parasite enters the bloodstream and causes Chagas disease, or trypanosomiasis, which is usually mild or even asymptomatic, but sometimes causes deaths. This new study claims that the deaths are being greatly underreporting, meaing the kissing bug could be far more deadly than we realized.
The study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, showed that infection with Chagas increased the risk of death by two or even three times. This applied to people in every age category as well.
The full statement from PLOS can be seen below.
Chagas disease, affecting millions of people in Central and South America, is classified as one of the 17 most important neglected diseases by the World Health Organization. Now, researchers have found that even the non-symptomatic stage of Chagas infection, which can last for many years, more than doubles a person’s risk of death. The new study, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, also concludes that deaths from Chagas have likely been under-reported in the past.
Chagas disease is an insect-borne parasitic disease caused by Trypanosoma cruzi. A bite from an infected Triatominae, or kissing bug, can cause initial swelling, fever, and headaches but symptoms generally fade away after a few months. Infected people can then live for decades with no more signs of the disease, during which time clinicians have assumed they have no increased mortality. Years later, it’s known that cardiac, neurological, and digestive symptoms of Chagas can reemerge.
In the new work, Ligia Capuani, of the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and colleagues retrospectively studied 2,842 Chagas-positive and 5,684 Chagas-negative blood donors in Sao Paulo from 1996 to 2000. Since blood donors are routinely screened for symptoms of active Chagas disease, it was assumed that blood samples testing positive for the parasite were from individuals in the indeterminate phase of the disease. Their records were cross-referenced with the Brazil national mortality information system to determine whether each person had died and, if so, the cause of death.
Among those who tested positive for Chagas, 159 (5.6%) died during the course of the study, whereas only 103 (1.8%) who tested negative for the disease died, representing a more than doubling of the overall death risk. Moreover, when only deaths due to Chagas or to underlying cardiac abnormalities were analyzed, the different was even greater–those with the disease had a 17.9 time greater risk of death. However, Chagas was often not listed as a cause of death in patients who had tested positive for the disease and died of heart problems.
“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,” the researchers say. “Research is urgently needed in order to test new therapeutic options with fewer side effects and to find better correlates of disease progression.”
As of right now, the Centers for Disease Control states that there are about 6 million people on the planet that are currently infected with Chagas Disease and about 300,000 in the United States. What is interesting is that most infections in the United States actually occurred via a kissing bug bite that happened while the individual was traveling abroad. In a Chagas Disease research study conducted just last year, it was determined that the states with the most prevalent amount of kissing bug infections are New York, California, Florida, and Texas. There was a correlation in that study that made the link between the high number of immigrants in those states and the higher amount of Chagas Disease.
According to the Center for Disease Control, if an American is diagnosed with Chagas Disease from a kissing bug bite, the only way to treat it is via medicine from the CDC itself. Those with suppressed immune systems and all children are particularly susceptible to the disease. If an infection is suspected, the CDC advises to consult with their healthcare professional on how to go about acquiring the proper medication.