Study Finds Bed Bugs’ Ability to Transmit Chagas Disease
by Dr. Michael R. Linford
February 8, 2018
A study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology provides a potential link with bed bugs being able to transmit Chagas disease. Most people view bedbugs as a nuisance or irritant pest. While the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has been shown to carry more than forty human disease-causing pathogens, most evidence points to a reduced ability to transmit diseases back to humans.
Researchers at New Mexico State University have recently investigated the ability of bed bugs to harbor Trypanosoma cruzi, the protozoan that causes Chagas disease. In the lab, the researchers found that nearly all bed bugs they fed with T. cruzi-infected blood later showed live forms of the pathogen in their guts and that T. cruzi frequently survived through the bed bugs’ molting. Researchers found living T. cruzi in adult bedbug guts 97 days after infection.
Chagas disease is a vector-borne infection with symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening, and it is spread primarily by insects in the Triatominae subfamily, a grouping of approximately 130 insect species found in the Americas, commonly called “kissing bugs”. The NMSU research findings provide additional evidence that bed bugs may be vectors spreading Chagas disease in natural conditions.
The initial phase of infection lasts for the first few weeks or months of infection. This phase is usually unnoticed because it is symptom-free or exhibits only mild symptoms that are not unique to Chagas disease. These can include fever, fatigue, body aches, muscle pain, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The signs on physical examination can include mild enlargement of the liver or spleen, swollen glands, and local swelling (a chagoma) where the parasite entered the body. The most recognized symptom of acute Chagas disease is called Romaña’s sign, which traditionally includes swelling of the eyelids on the side of the face near the bite wound or where the bug feces were deposited or accidentally rubbed into the eye. Rarely, young children, or adults may die from the acute disease due to severe inflammation and/or infection of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or brain (meningoencephalitis).
I’ve included two videos demonstrating the effectiveness of a bed bug heat treatment with GreenTech Heat equipment.
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