Remember when we told you about some of the cutest animals in the world that can straight-up kill you? (If you missed that article, check it out ASAP.) Well, we can add another adorable little critter to that Most Wanted list; this one may be the tiniest one we’ve found so far… and possibly the most lethal of all.
Triatominae, a species of blood-sucking insect sometimes called the “Kissing Bug” for its tendency to bite people on the lips, can sometimes host a microscopic parasite known as Trypanosoma cruzi, which makes its home inside the bug’s digestive system and can enter a human’s bloodstream through an infected bite.
Carriers can develop what’s known as “Chagas disease,” a fairly rare condition with severe and sometimes deadly complications, including a weakened immune system, and cardiomyopathy, which is an inflammation of the heart’s muscular tissue. The disease can be treated, but only if caught early enough — and that’s the problem: Trypanosoma cruzi can lie dormant in the body for years… or even decades.
The Kissing Bug (also known as the “Assassin Bug,” which might be more approporiate) is native to South America and Central America, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, incidents of Chagas disease are beginning to surface in the United States. According to ABC News, cases have recently been reported in Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas. The CDC estimates that 300,000 people in the U.S. are infected with the disease… and possibly more have it and don’t even know it.