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With Climate Change, U.S. Could Face Risk From Chagas Disease

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In the spring of 1835, Charles Darwin was bitten in Argentina by a “great wingless black bug,” he wrote in his diary.

“It is most disgusting to feel soft wingless insects, about an inch long, crawling over one's body,” Darwin wrote, “before sucking they are quite thin, but afterwards round & bloated with blood.”

In all likelihood, Darwin’s nighttime visitor was a member of Reduviid family of insects — the so-called kissing bugs because of their habit of biting people around the mouth while they sleep.

From this attack, some infectious disease experts have speculated, the famed naturalist might have contracted Chagas disease, a parasite-borne illness carried by kissing bugs, that today afflicts millions of people in Central and South America. Darwin’s bite may have led, ultimately, to his death from heart problems.

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