Kissing bugs are type of reduviid bug that can carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi that causes Chagas disease.This insects are usually known as conenose bugs or chinches. Kissing bugs feed on blood during the night, and they are called kissing bugs because they prefer to bite humans around the mouth or eyes.
Adult kissing bugs range from 3/4 to 1 – 1/4 inches in length. Most of the species have characteristic band around the edge of the body that is striped with red or orange markings. The legs of kissing bugs are long and thin. Unlike some other species, the legs are uniformly thin along the length of the leg, and there are no ‘bulging’ thicker areas on the legs. This bugs have distinctive mouthparts that appear as a large black extension to the head. These mouthparts give the nickname ‘Conenose bug’.
There are 11 different species of ‘kissing’ bugs in United States. The most common species in the south-central United States are Triatoma sanguisuga and Triatoma gerstaeckeri, which are about 1 inch long.
Kissing or Triatomine bugs (also called reduviid bugs, assassin bugs, conenose bugs) can live indoors, in cracks and holes of substandard housing or of outdoor settings including:
- Beneath porches
- Between rocky structures
- Under cement
- In rock, wood, brush piles, or beneath bark
- In rodent nests or animal burrows
- In outdoor dog houses or kennels
- In chicken coops or houses
This bug looks harmless, but, like we mention above, this bug actually transmits a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which can make lot of problems for human health and even lead to Chagas disease.
This bugs can transmit the parasite to human by biting and subsequently defecating near the site of the bite. The parasites live in the digestive tract of the bugs and are shed in the bug feces. When infectious bug fecal material contaminates the mucous membranes or the site of bug bite, transmission of the parasite can occur.
In humans, Chagas disease manifests in two phases: acute phase and chronic phase. After becoming infected with this parasite, the acute phase can last for a few weeks to few months. This phase is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are common for many types of illnesses, including fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. People who are infected with this parasite, approximately 30% are at risk of developing chronic Chagas disease. Chronic Chagas disease includes cardiac complications or intestinal complications, and these signs may not be apparent until decades after the initial infection. Cardiac signs include enlarged heart, heart failure, altered heart rate or cardiac arrest. Intestinal signs include an enlarged esophagus or colon, which can cause difficulties with digestion. Concerned individuals , especially people who found or seen this kind of bug, should discuss testing options with their physicians. In worst case scenario, treatment of Chagas disease are difficult and drugs are available only through the CDC after consultation with a physician.
If you suspect you have Chagas disease, consult your healthcare provider or physician familiar with diagnosis and treatment of Chagas disease and other parasitic infections.