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Adventures with Kissing Bugs

In Colombia in 2013, I met a researcher from Princeton University working on Chagas, a vector-borne disease that's ubiquitous in Latin America, with a very high public health burden, that I'd never heard of. I wasn't alone; Chagas remains one of the least studied and least publicized tropical diseases though it causes serious heart damage in about a third of people who have it. As it turns out, both the parasite that causes disease and the bugs that carry it have long been in the United States as well, as researchers in Texas are starting to realize. In this piece for the New Yorker's Elements blog, I write about how military scientists began taking note of Chagas when dogs at Lackland Air Force Base began dropping dead, and worried about the implications for troops.