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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e44016. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044016. Epub 2012 Aug 28.

Do bites of kissing bugs cause unexplained allergies? Results from a survey in triatomine-exposed and unexposed areas in southern california.

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  • 1Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, University of California Riverside, Riverside, California, United States of America. jan.walter@email.de



The bite of Triatominae can cause cutaneous allergic reactions and even anaphylaxis. Since the early 1980s, no population-based surveys have been done in Southern California, and none was ever carried out in inland Los Angeles or Riverside Counties.


To measure the frequency of insect sightings, bites and allergic reactions in a suburban area of eastern Los Angeles County and along with rural and urban sites in Riverside County.


A door-to-door survey was done in triatomine exposed and unexposed areas. Logistic regression modeling was used for the analysis, and study participants were asked to collect insects.


Out of the 221 study participants in the exposed areas, 46 (20%) knew about the presence of Triatominae in their neighborhood. Fifteen (7%) persons reported triatomine sightings in their house during the month preceding the interview. Also, 15 (7%) participants reported ever being bitten by a triatomine. Ten (5%) participants collected either a Triatoma protracta Uhler and/or Paratriatoma hirsuta Barber in and around their house. Twenty-nine (13%) persons in the rural Riverside County reported symptoms compatible with allergy to triatomine bites. This was 4 times higher than in the urban control area where only 4 (3%) of 115 persons reported these symptoms. The association between living in a triatomine-exposed area and self-reported symptoms suggestive of allergies increased slightly when adjusted for the participant's sex and the age of their house (adjusted odds ratio: 5.1, 95% confidence interval: 1.2 to 22.0). Reporting these symptoms was associated with seeing Triatominae in the neighborhood and having been bitten.


Allergies to triatomine bites could be a significant problem in inland Southern California. Further investigations, a diagnostic test and better information of persons living in triatomine-exposed areas are needed.

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