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Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 Jul;96(7):2194-8.

Assessment of hepatitis B virus DNA and hepatitis C virus RNA in the common bedbug (Cimex lectularius L.) and kissing bug (Rodnius prolixus).

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  • 1Department of Medicine, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan 48073, USA.



Historical clinical studies suggest the potential for insect-borne transmission of human hepatitis viruses. Studies of hepatitis B virus (HBV) persistence in insects were performed before the advent of molecular techniques, and studies to assess possible insect-borne transmission of hepatitis viruses have not yet been performed. The aim of this study was to determine, using molecular techniques, whether HBV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) persist in and are excreted in the feces of the bedbug Cimex lectularius L. and kissing bug Rodnius prolixus after an infectious meal.


Blood-feeding insects from the insect order Hemiptera (Cimex lectularius L. and Rhodnius prolixus) were fed on blood from infected patients with high titers of HBV, HCV, and control uninfected patients. Insects and insect excrement were collected at weekly intervals and tested for HBV DNA and HCV RNA using the polymerase chain reaction.


HBV DNA was detected in bedbugs and excrement up to 6 wk after feeding on an infectious meal. HBV DNA was also detected in most kissing bugs and excrement up to 2 wk after feeding. HCV RNA was not detected in bedbugs at any time after feeding.


We did not detect HCV RNA in bedbugs after feeding on an infectious meal. Our data provide molecular evidence to suggest that HBV may persist in Hemiptera. Additional studies are ongoing to determine whether this viral persistence is capable of infection.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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