A new study from Penn Medicine researchers in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics reveals that bed bugs can transmit a parasite that causes Chagas disease.
Chagas disease is mostly prevalent in South America and is just as deadly as the triatomine, or "kissing" bug.
In the current study, senior author Michael Z. Levy, PhD, assistant professor in the department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, and researchers at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Peru found in a series of laboratory experiments that the parasite T. cruzi was transmitted between mice and bed bugs.
"We've shown that the bed bug can acquire and transmit the parasite. Our next step is to determine whether they are, or will become, an important player in the epidemiology of Chagas disease," 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."
The study details have been published online in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.