|Conenose bug- MObugs- Shelly Cox|
Kissing bugs are members of the Reduviid family of insects, commonly known as assassin bugs. Most assassin bugs shove their proboscis into insects, inject their digestive juices and then suck up their predigested dinner. When handled they may use these this as a weapon of self defense, but they otherwise aren't interested in mammals.
|One species of kissing bug- Wikimedia|
Scary stuff, but not a big concern in the United States so far. There have only been seven documented cases of Chagas disease acquired within our borders. It is most common in the southern states, but according to new research it may become a greater problem in the future. A study recently reported by the National Science Foundation suggests that climate change may increase our exposure to the parasite.
"A new study finds that 38 percent of kissing bugs collected in Arizona and California contained human blood, and that more than 50 percent of the bugs also carried the parasite that causes this life-threatening disease. This upends the view that U.S. kissing bug species don't regularly feed on people and suggests that Chagas could spread, driven north by climate change."The risk of increasing Chagas disease exposure could come from a northern movement of kissing bug populations. As they infect more vectors, i.e. humans and other mammals, that then provides an expanding pool of the parasites for the next generation for kissing bugs to feed upon. We don't have a large population of people sleeping in jungle huts that are exposed to nighttime feeding bugs so the frequency is unlikely to reach high levels.
The odds of increased cases of Chagas disease in the US are unknown at the present. The risks from an individual kissing bug bite in Missouri are relatively low, but just as your momma said, be careful who you kiss.
You can see pictures of some of the many species of Triatominae at bugguide.net.
See also this MOBugs link.