BSI Researchers attempt to stop the kiss of death

Image Rhodnius prolixus Photo by Erwin Huebner

FIU researchers are on a mission to control and eliminate Chagas disease, which is spread by Rhodnius prolixus and other kissing bug species.

Not as sweet as it sounds, the kissing bug earned its name because it bites people’s faces, usually around the mouth, and feed on their blood at night. The insects typically defecate after feeding and can pass the T. cruzi parasite that causes the disease if the person accidentally rubs the infected feces into the bite wound.

Chagas disease affects about 7 million people worldwide and can cause premature heart failure or gastrointestinal issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported infections in Arkansas, Arizona, Tennessee and Texas and is warning Floridians about the potentially deadly disease.

BSI researchers, Dr. Fernando G. Noriega and Dr. Marcela Nouzova are part of the international research team who sequenced nearly all of Rhodnius prolixus’ DNA, completing a comprehensive analysis of its genetic material. Understanding an organism’s genetic makeup helps understand how its genes work together to direct the growth, development and maintenance of the entire organism.

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