Kissing bug has been in the news recently but the insect poses no threat to infect Georgians with Chagas disease. Dr. Nancy Hinkle, UGA insect expert, says Georgia has had kissing bugs since before humans got here. Georgians have not gotten Chagas disease historically and nothing has changed in Georgia, so we’re not concerned about Georgians getting infected with Chagas disease (unless we start living in thatched-roof huts – or moving wild mammal nests into our homes).
Scientists at the Texas A&M Vet School received funding to study Chagas disease (which makes sense, since the disease is prevalent along the Texas-Mexico border). The plan is to use citizen-scientists to submit kissing bugs from all over the country so that they can get baseline data on how prevalent a harmful parasite is in kissing bugs. Note: by capturing and handling kissing bugs to submit for this project, people may be increasing their exposure to the Chagas disease parasite, so may be inadvertently increasing risk of transmission and infection.
Note too that all material must be submitted to Texas A&M – UGA is not accepting kissing bugs, is not analyzing kissing bugs, and does not want kissing bugs.
The insects below are sometimes confused for kissing bug.