In a new paper published in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, researcher Sonia Kjos and associates describe first survey of the kissing bug species in Texas in many years. Using new DNA-based techniques they were able to tell how many of the insects they collected were infected with the parasite.
The study confirms the presence of kissing bugs through most areas of Texas (97 of 254 counties), and shows that over half the bugs collected from domestic settings tested positive for the disease pathogen. Dogs seem to be especially at risk for the disease where these bugs are present, possibly because they may eat the bugs whenever they can. Over 530 cases of Chagas disease have been confirmed in dogs in Texas over the past 15 years.
Ready for some good news? The disease, for reasons not fully understood, remains very rare in humans in Texas. Only 6 cases have been confirmed since 1955 when the first incident was recorded in the medical literature. Tighter house construction and different sanitation standards could account for the lower infection rates in Texas compared to northern Mexico, where some of the same kissing bug species are found. In any case there is much more to be learned about this secretive and creepy bug. In the meantime, thanks to Sonia and her team for shedding a little more light on this important pest and disease.