The Kissing Bug Disease(Short Takes)

Chagas Disease(Kissing Bug Disease)

Chagas disease, also termed kissing bug disease is an infection caused by a protozoan parasite (Trypanosoma cruzi) that can result in acute inflammatory skin changes (chagomas) and eventually may cause infection and inflammation of many other body tissues, especially those of the heart and intestinal tract. The disease was named after Dr. Carlos Chagas, who discovered the disease in 1909. The disease may have three phases in an individual: acute, with mild or no symptoms that may last weeks to about two months; intermediate or indeterminate phase that has few if any symptoms and may last 10-20 years or longer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about 8-11 million people are infected in countries where the disease is endemic. The parasites are transferred to humans by the bite of blood-sucking triatomine bugs in the subfamily Triatominae, also termed “kissing bugs.” The disease has been diagnosed in the U.S., mainly in immigrants from South and Central America. Triatomine bugs have been detected in Texas, and recently the CDC communicated that the bugs have now been found in 28 states, including California and Pennsylvania.

Symptoms and signs

  • Swelling and/or redness at the skin infection site (termed chagoma)
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea

Treatment for Chagas disease

Treatment for Chagas disease depends on the phase of the disease. The prescription medications benznidazole (Ragonil) and nifurtimox (Lampit) may eliminate or reduce the number of parasites in the body. Some investigators suggest that drug-resistant parasites occur and others suggest these drugs of choice never eliminate all of the parasites. The CDC recommends drug treatment for “all people diagnosed with  (Chagas) infection, congenital infection, and for those with suppressed immune systems, and for all children with chronic infection. Adults with chronic infection may also benefit from treatment.” The CDC cautions about treating adults over 50 years of age and recommends that treatment plans for older adults be individualized. Both of these anti-parasitic drugs are available in Central and South America. In America, however, the drugs can be obtained only through the CDC.

Article by Mary (want more)Moore

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