Kissing bug disease more dangerous than thought, study finds

Posted: Updated:
A new study by doctors in Brazil found deaths fueled by the infection kissing bugs can cause more than double a person's risk of death. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A new study by doctors in Brazil found deaths fueled by the infection kissing bugs can cause more than double a person's risk of death. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
While it may look harmless, these bugs, found frequently around Arizona, are known to spread Chagas disease. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) While it may look harmless, these bugs, found frequently around Arizona, are known to spread Chagas disease. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 300,000 cases of Chagas in the U.S. with most of those contracted in other countries. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 300,000 cases of Chagas in the U.S. with most of those contracted in other countries. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
According to the World Health Organization, more than six million people are estimated to be infected globally. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) According to the World Health Organization, more than six million people are estimated to be infected globally. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

It's a bug that's commonly found here in Arizona.

Now a new study by doctors in Brazil found the infection kissing bugs can cause can more than double a person's risk of death.

The little bug loves to bite people around their lips and faces while they sleep, hence why it's called the kissing bug.

While it may look harmless, these bugs, found frequently around Arizona, are known to spread Chagas disease.    

Generally considered to be mild or even asymptomatic in most cases, it can lead to death.

"Anybody who is bitten by these bugs should be very conscious of any flu symptoms, high fevers, swelling over the eye," said Dawn Gouge, an entomologist with the University of Arizona.

3TV/CBS 5 reached out to Gouge to see what this new study, carried out by doctors in Brazil, and published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, could mean for us here, considering it found infection with Chagas increased risk of death by two to three times.

"Although a lot of the insects that were tested in the study came from Arizona and California were found to be carrying the parasite, it doesn't necessarily mean they can transmit it onto the human host," said Gouge.

Gouge says, if you can, you should really try to avoid being bitten by this bug.

"Pest proofing buildings helps enormously. They will fly at night quite considerable distances to the light," said Gouge.

What surprised and concerned Gouge the most about this study is that it found 40 percent of people whose blood tested positive for Chagas disease didn't have that infection stated on their death certificate, even when deaths were heart-related.    

"When you think about the U.S., the leading cause of death, one in four deaths are due to heart disease of some kind, so, anything that causes chronic heart problems should be of a concern," said Gouge.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 300,000 cases of Chagas in the U.S. with most of those contracted in other countries.    

According to the World Health Organization, more than six million people are estimated to be infected globally.

Researchers say if you're ever infected by Chagas early in life, you should be treated.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Tapping therapy empowering patients

    Tapping therapy empowering patients

    Friday, March 23 2018 4:40 PM EDT2018-03-23 20:40:24 GMT
    Dr. Ed Lamadrid shows how tapping can help alleviate stress. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Dr. Ed Lamadrid shows how tapping can help alleviate stress. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Tapping therapy, also known as emotional freedom technique, is a take-off of Chinese acupuncture, targeting specific points on the body to help patients address both emotional and physical stressors.

    More >

    Tapping therapy, also known as emotional freedom technique, is a take-off of Chinese acupuncture, targeting specific points on the body to help patients address both emotional and physical stressors.

    More >
  • Breakthrough treatment for tough to treat cancer now being used at Phoenix hospital

    Breakthrough treatment for tough to treat cancer now being used at Phoenix hospital

    Thursday, March 22 2018 8:47 AM EDT2018-03-22 12:47:10 GMT
    It's a medical breakthrough that's being called truly "transformative" by a world-renowned cancer doctor here in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)It's a medical breakthrough that's being called truly "transformative" by a world-renowned cancer doctor here in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
    It's called CAR-T cellular therapy and only one hospital in the entire state has been approved to perform the procedure on its patients. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)It's called CAR-T cellular therapy and only one hospital in the entire state has been approved to perform the procedure on its patients. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    It's a medical breakthrough that's being called truly "transformative" by a world-renowned cancer doctor here in Phoenix. It's called CAR-T cellular therapy and only one hospital in the entire state has been approved to perform the procedure on its patients.

    More >

    It's a medical breakthrough that's being called truly "transformative" by a world-renowned cancer doctor here in Phoenix. It's called CAR-T cellular therapy and only one hospital in the entire state has been approved to perform the procedure on its patients.

    More >
  • Working after 65: Things to keep in mind

    Working after 65: Things to keep in mind

    Thursday, March 29 2018 8:19 AM EDT2018-03-29 12:19:12 GMT
    (Source: convisum via 123RF)(Source: convisum via 123RF)

    For many of us, the retirement age is a moving target. The magic number used to be 65, but lots of us are living and working longer.

    More >

    For many of us, the retirement age is a moving target. The magic number used to be 65, but lots of us are living and working longer.

    More >
  • Featured VideoMore>>

  • Road trip! Great Nat'l Parks a days drive from Phoenix

    Road trip! Great Nat'l Parks a days drive from Phoenix

    Friday, April 27 2018 3:02 AM EDT2018-04-27 07:02:22 GMT
    Many of us have been to the Grand Canyon, Arizona's crown jewel and one of the most popular parks in the country.  But what are some other national parks worth visiting in the region? (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Many of us have been to the Grand Canyon, Arizona's crown jewel and one of the most popular parks in the country. But what are some other national parks worth visiting in the region? (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
    Many of us have been to the Grand Canyon, Arizona's crown jewel and one of the most popular parks in the country.  But what are some other national parks worth visiting in the region? (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Many of us have been to the Grand Canyon, Arizona's crown jewel and one of the most popular parks in the country. But what are some other national parks worth visiting in the region? (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Many of us have been to the Grand Canyon, Arizona's crown jewel and one of the most popular parks in the country. But what are some other national parks worth visiting in the region? Here's a list of some great national parks all within about a days drive from Phoenix.

    More >

    Many of us have been to the Grand Canyon, Arizona's crown jewel and one of the most popular parks in the country. But what are some other national parks worth visiting in the region? Here's a list of some great national parks all within about a days drive from Phoenix.

    More >
  • Education budget crunch leads to school bus maintenance problems

    Education budget crunch leads to school bus maintenance problems

    Friday, April 27 2018 2:17 AM EDT2018-04-27 06:17:35 GMT
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    The night of Nov. 5, 2015 saw a freight train slam into a stalled school bus in Maricopa. Video captured inside the bus shows the driver frantically trying to restart the bus, before grabbing her bag and jumping out the driver's side door. The video goes black when the train hits the bus.

    More >

    The night of Nov. 5, 2015 saw a freight train slam into a stalled school bus in Maricopa. Video captured inside the bus shows the driver frantically trying to restart the bus, before grabbing her bag and jumping out the driver's side door. The video goes black when the train hits the bus.

    More >
  • Parents feel the pinch of day 1 of teacher walkout

    Parents feel the pinch of day 1 of teacher walkout

    Friday, April 27 2018 2:07 AM EDT2018-04-27 06:07:50 GMT
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Parents felt the pinch of Arizona's historic teacher walkout and got a taste of what tomorrow and next week could look like. 

    More >

    Parents felt the pinch of Arizona's historic teacher walkout and got a taste of what tomorrow and next week could look like. 

    More >