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Reactions to bites from kissing bugs (primarily genus Triatoma)

Jerome Goddard, PhD
Richard D deShazo, MD
Section Editors
David B Golden, MD
Daniel F Danzl, MD
Deputy Editor
Anna M Feldweg, MD


Triatomine insects (colloquial names include kissing bug, Mexican bed bug, and cone-nosed bug) are found primarily in the western and southern United States, in Central and South America, and in Mexico (picture 1 and picture 2). These insects feed on blood and will bite various animals and people, although humans are not a primary host [1].

Triatoma bites are generally painless and asymptomatic. However, reactions can occur, ranging from local irritation at the site to allergic and anaphylactic reactions.

Triatomines are also of medical interest because they are the insect vectors for the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. Triatoma and other closely related species found in the United States infrequently transmit T. cruzi, whereas the infection is endemic in some parts of South America. They do not transmit other human disease agents.

Local and allergic reactions to triatoma bites are discussed in this topic review. Chagas disease and public health measures to control populations of kissing bugs in endemic areas are presented elsewhere. (See "Chagas disease: Pathology and pathogenesis" and "Chagas disease: Epidemiology and prevention".)


Triatoma bites are among the most common causes of insect bite-related allergy and anaphylaxis [2]. However, bite-induced anaphylaxis is less common than sting-related anaphylaxis, such as that induced by Hymenoptera species such as bees, wasps, and ants.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 04, 2016.
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