Friday, January 16, 2015

Bed bugs and Chagas Disease! Is This a Plague in the Making?

By Rich Kozlovich

This is a story of ideological and politically correct corruption starting with Rachel Carson and Silent Spring, her junk science fiction book, followed by Richard Nixon’s creation of the Environmental Protection Agency through executive order and continuing now with the national leadership and bureaucracy imposing rules at many levels of government that are clearly detrimental to society.  This is small part of a much larger story, a story that’s brought about unnecessary afflictions every year to hundreds of millions and the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions since the irresponsible ban on DDT in 1972.  And the insanity continues!

Recently a paper was submitted by Renzo Salazar and others entitled Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius) as Vectors of Trypanosoma cruzi.  This paper demonstrates there is a potential for the spread of Chagas disease in the United States via bed bugs.   We will explore this later in the article, but first let’s review the whole Chagas disease story.

Chagas disease has been a plague of the Peruvian Andes for 1500 years and is considered one of the five most negelected parasitic infections by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The other four are Neurocysticercosis, with at least 1,000 people are hospitalized with every year - Toxocariasis which clearly has been spread far more than most of us realize since “approximately 13.9% of the U.S. population has antibodies to Toxocara. This suggests that tens of millions of Americans may have been exposed to the Toxocara parasite” with “70 people, most of them children, blinded by the parasite” - Toxoplasma gondii chronically infects more that 60 million in the United States.   All these afflictions are caused in some way by ingestion.  Trichomonas infects 1.1 million people each year and is a sexually transmitted disease.

But the fifth one is Chagas disease, and it’s an insect borne affliction, and now it appears it can be transmitted by bed bugs.  To explore this properly we first need to review the whole Chagas disease story.

Traditional understanding is that Chagas disease is an insect borne disease spread by true bugs (triatomine) called the “assassin bug”, “cone-nose bug”, and” kissing bug” which spreads a parasitic protozoan called Trypanosoma cruzi.  Chagas disease is named after its discoverer, Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, who discovered this disease in 1909, which is also known as American trypanosomiasis. 

Triatomine bugs, the vector for Chagas, can hide in the cracks of poorly built dwellings. (CDC Photo)
(Pictures by the CDC ).

The feeding pattern by these bugs can, and does, cause Chagas disease in the America’s and sleeping sickness in Africa. It’s also responsible for afflictions in horses and cattle.
These bugs love sleeping humans since sleeping humans provide easy nighttime meals – which is what bed bugs also love to do.  However, while feeding they’re also depositing feces contaminated with the parasite on the skin.   The bite causes itching, which causes scratching, which smears the infected feces on skin and fingers.  This introduces the parasite through mucous membranes such as our mouths or eyes, or breaks in the skin, and this can be done while sleeping.  But the parasite can also be introduced through normal medical procedures via “blood transfusion, organ transplantation, and mother-to-baby (congenital transmission)”.  Needless to say, if this does become epidemic, this will change society at many levels.

Chagas disease is also known as the “silent killer” because the initial infection may cause a small fever or swollen eyes - the symptoms being so mild medical help isn’t sought.  If it isn’t recognized and treated very early it can become a “chronic asymptomatic”. 

“Chronic” means it lasts for more than “three months and generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor [does it] just disappear.” 

“Asymptomatic” means there may be no symptoms in spite of the fact a person is infected with the parasite which can lay dormant in the body for years - even decades - and at this stage Chagas is extremely hard to diagnose.  When symptoms finally appear they can be severe and deadly, including irregular heartbeat, congestive heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, difficulty swallowing due to enlarged esophagus, abdominal pain or constipation due to enlarged colon. 

Let’s get clarity on this subject – although minorities, immigrants, and people living in poor or disadvantaged communities appear to be most at risk, anyone, regardless of race or economic status can become infected.  And the greater the number of those in lower socio/economic levels who become infected the greater the infection rate society must face.  This can, and will, impact and spread this disease throughout society because the base load numbers are swelling in the American Southwest from Texas to California. 

While the number cited by the CDC nationwide is over 300,000 Dr. Peter Hotez, of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, estimated there were between 2-6 million cases in Mexico and possibly over 250,000 cases in Texas alone.  Illegal immigrants swarming across the Southern border are not tested for any diseases as are  legal immigrants, and many of them are being transported all over the country by the federal government.

“Lori Stevens, a biologist at the University of Vermont, collected samples from two species of kissing bugs from California and Arizona. The samples were tested for evidence of human blood and infection with T. cruzi. Over one-third of the sampled insects tested positive for human blood, meaning they had recently bitten a human. What's more, the infection rate with T. cruzi was high, at 55 percent for one of the species. None of the sample bugs tested positive for both human blood and T. cruzi infection, but the potential for transmission clearly exists”.

The potential geometric growth of this disease should be clear to the most casual observer.  But is that geometric potential the same for bed bugs?  This brings me back to the paper released by Salazar and his associates.  First I would like to say I appreciate they’ve not made any attempt to be hyperbolic in their work, as is the wont of so many researchers.  What they’ve claimed is there’s a “potential” for the spread of Chagas by bed bugs because of the plague like levels of bed bugs in the United States.  
There’s are some major differences between “kissing bugs” and bed bugs.  Kissing bugs acquire the parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, by feeding on mammals and something called coprophagia.   Young kissing bugs eat their parents feces for biological reasons I won’t go into here, but if the feces is infected with the parasite, their young acquire it.  Bed bugs don’t eat crap and can only acquire the parasite by their normal blood feasts. 
There’s another big difference.  Kissing bugs like to bite the face and correspondingly defecate on the face, making transmission to the eyes and mouth much easier.  Bed bugs can bite anywhere, including the face, but most bites are away from the face, reducing the potential for infection because they defecate away from those access points.  Trypanosoma cruzi is capable of living in any number of insects but that doesn’t make them transmitters of Chagas. 
While the researchers infected their test species of bed bug by feeding them on mice infected with the parasite, and they demonstrated that Chagas can be transmitted by rubbing bed bug feces on exposed scratches on test mice to infect them, however, that’s only lab infection, it isn’t necessarily real world infection.  Their research has shown that bed bugs “can” transmit Chagas disease, but the real question is “do” they transmit Chagas disease? 

Many are saying this isn’t any big deal because bed bugs demonstrate poor “vector competence”, meaning it does not acquire, maintain or transmit an infectious disease at all, or not very effectively.  That remains to be seen since research in 1912 Argentine researchers showed mice became infected by eating bed bugs carrying the parasite.  That’s a bit of a game changer, and is ignored by authors who are attempting to downplay the potential for infection. 
What we do know for sure is this.  These “kissing bugs” live in the United States. They are transmitting Chagas in the United States.  Many of the illegal immigrants that might be carrying this parasite have been dumped all over the United States.  The bed bug population has exploded within the United States to epidemic proportions creating a mathematical model for the spread of this disease.  We know the potential base load for transmission increases as the number of infections increase and the number of vectors increase, irrespective of how vector incompetent bed bugs may be.  It’s all in the numbers, and we need to take that seriously.
The researchers noted in the paper:
“The Key parameters that determine whether a vector-borne pathogen can be expected to spread through a population are codified in mathematical models”….. and “these parameters include the numerical ratio of vectors to hosts, the rate of contact between vectors and hosts, and the probability of infection transmission with each contact.  Notably he first two of these parameters are higher for bed bugs than triatomine bugs: bed bugs generally reach greater densities in infested households than triatomines, and feed about two times as often as T. infestans. 
Defecation rates were then compared and it was noted that bed bugs defecated more often but with a lower defecation index. 
What should we absolutely take away from all of this? 

All government entities need to come to the correct conclusion that bed bugs are a public health issue, not merely a pest.  All government entities need to understand the only preventive measure that works is the proper application of residual pesticides - claims of repairing and improving housing notwithstanding.  All government entities need to understand that the blame for all of this can be laid at the feet of the federal government for any number of irrational policies - the Environmental Protection Agency and the green movement for their unrelenting drive to eliminate pesticides of all categories from our arsenal of tools needed to keep the tribe healthy. 
And finally all government entities need to understand the United States was first society in all of human history to eliminate bed bugs.  When the boys came back from WWII bed bugs were ubiquitous!  Why?  Because they were here when they left.  But something changed!  The boys came back with DDT!   The answer then was inexpensive, effective, easy to use chemistry that was available to everyone.  That was the answer then and that must be the answer now or there will be no answer.  In short - if there are no bed bugs - there's no problem!

1 comment:

James Brown said...

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value. Im glad to have found this post as its such an interesting one! I am always on the lookout for quality posts and articles so i suppose im lucky to have found this! I hope you will be adding more in the future...
pest control san antonio