Triatomine Bugs Now Spreading Tropical Disease in US

November 6, 2014 12:03 AM

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Chagas disease, which is transmitted by triatomine bugs ("kissing bugs") that feed on the faces of humans at night, was once thought limited to Mexico and Central and South America. In one pilot study, Melissa Nolan Garcia, MPH, a research associate at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues looked at 17 blood donors in Texas who tested positive for the parasite that causes Chagas disease. "We were surprised to find that 36% had evidence of being a locally acquired case," Garcia told HealthDay. "Additionally, 41% of this presumably healthy blood donor population had heart abnormalities consistent with Chagas cardiac disease."

In another study, Garcia's team collected 40 insects in 11 Texas counties. They found that 73% carried the parasite and half of those had bitten humans as well as other animals, such as dogs, rabbits, and raccoons. In a third study, researchers collected data on 1,908 people whose blood tested posit...

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