Kissing Bugs

I know that this blog title may give the impression that I’m bitter about a certain ‘loving’ holiday, but I’m really not. I agree with the fact that you shouldn’t need Valentine’s Day to do something special for the one(s) you love, but certainly have nothing against people taking the opportunity to do so. Maybe it’s because I have been single for every Valentine’s Day, but I no longer rant and despise the lovers around.

While I was away in Finland, I experienced their version of Valentine’s Day called ‘Friend Day’ which I like a lot more as I do love to do nice things for friends. Though, this never has stopped me from having fun with friends on past Valentine’s Days. And you can still smooch somebody else whilst having fun on a night out 😉

Anyway, I thought I would scare all of you disgustingly cute love-birds by informing you all about Chagas disease, caused by a protozoan parasite which spreads via the kissing bug!

Symptoms of the disease result in two phases. In the acute stage, moderate to mild symptoms will occur (though some people don’t notice anything different at all in the first couple of weeks). These include nausea, body aches, fever, fatigue etc (not to be confused with feeling ‘love-sick). The chronic stage of the infection affects the heart, nervous system and digestive system (arguably similar to a broken heart). The most noticeable sign which occurs in Chagas disease is a swelling of the eyelids, which relates to the disease’s transmission. Chagas disease can be fatal, mostly due to heart muscle damage. And the cause of this deadly disease is Trypanosoma cruzi.

T. cruzi is the protozoal parasite which actually causes the disease, but it passes through an insect vector called a Triatomine bug (or kissing bug). People are infected as the bugs fall from the roofs of houses onto people during the night. The fact that the bug bites humans on the face is where the deadly vector gets its cute name! Although the bug does defecate on the person after feeding, so one small reason Triatomine isn’t impaled by cupid’s arrow is perhaps because it fouls near the bite wound in order for T. cruzi to enter the host. If the bug has already bitten someone with Chagas already, then when they next drop onto someone for a glorious feast of blood (with compulsory use of the skin as its plate and bathroom!), then they transfer T. cruzi to the next individual to infect.

T. cruzi targets neuronal cells, epithelial cells (lining the digestive system) and myocardial (heart) cells. In the infected cell, the parasite undergoes a cycle of stage differentiation and parasitic replication where they eventually burst from the cell and infect other cells in the body. Destruction of cells and tissues are what causes the symptoms seen in Chagas disease. So far, there is no treatment for the disease and the focus has been on preventing vector transmission and so preventing the kissing bugs contacting humans. The disease is a big problem in Central America, Mexico and South America, but is becoming a big problem in Europe due to immigration from Latin American countries.

I hope you aren’t all repulsed during Valentine’s (I prefer PALentine’s), but just to warn you of the dangers of giving a little, not-so-cute, killing bug a goodnight kiss! Pucker up 😉

TTFN blogosphere xxxxxxxxxxx




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About Chris

Chris has now graduated from the University of Leicester. I'm a guy finishing my Undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences (with a year abroad) at the University of Leicester. After a fun year in Finland, I will be getting down to the nitty gritty of life for a final year in Biology (specifically Microbiology). Along with a rant on studying, there will be a sprinkling of society chatter and my imminent thoughts on growing up into graduation and the beyond!

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