AGAWAM, MA—Braman Termite and Pest Elimination is raising awareness about a new study on mice that found that like kissing bugs, bed bugs can transmit Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the disease, which is only found in the Americas, to be one of the neglected parasitic infections (NPI). This group of five parasitic diseases has been targeted by the CDC for public health action. A parasite taking up residence within the body sounds grotesque, but more important is the fact that Chagas disease can lead to an enlarged heart, altered heart rate or rhythm, heart failure caused by progressive destruction of the heart muscle, and intestinal complications that lead to difficulties with eating or passing stool. If left untreated, the disease can be life threatening. According to the CDC, about 300,000 human cases of Chagas disease have been reported in the U.S. alone.
The new study was conducted by Penn Medicine researchers in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and authored by Michael Z. Levy, PhD. The findings demonstrate that the insects could infect people through their feces, which they deposit on their host during feeding. Because people often itch and scratch after being bitten, the opportunity exists for Trypanosoma cruzi to enter the body through broken skin or via the eyes.
“We’ve shown that the bed bug can acquire and transmit the parasite,” Levy said. “There are some reasons to worry – bed bugs have more frequent contact with people than kissing bugs, and there are more of them in infested houses, giving them ample opportunity to transmit the parasite.”
While the study findings do indicate transmission of Chagas disease between mice and bed bugs, the transmission of the disease from bed bugs to human hosts was not tested. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), “There is currently no research or medically documented cases of humans contracting diseases from the direct bite of a bed bug. More research is needed to better understand bed bugs’ role in disease transmission and their role in the epidemiology of Chagas disease.”
Until further research is conducted, pest management professionals urge the public to be more aware of the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation. as current knowledge about the transmission of Chagas disease from bed bugs to human hosts is inconclusive.
“We do not want to unnecessarily alarm people,” sats Jerry Lazarus, third-generation owner of Braman Termite and Pest Elimination. “However, there has been a large resurgence in bed bug infestations over the last few years. Therefore, it’s important to understand treatment options and how important it is not to live with a problem that could become life threatening as evidenced in the recently published research.”