What is the pathophysiology of insect bites?

Updated: Jun 21, 2018
  • Author: Boyd (Bo) D Burns, DO, FACEP, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Mouthparts of biting insects can be classified into 3 broad groups: piercing, sponging, and biting. Tremendous diversity exists in the morphology of these groups. Insects discussed in this article generally are nonvenomous, yet many species inject saliva while biting. Their saliva may aid in digestion, inhibit coagulation, increase blood flow to the bite, or anesthetize the bite locus. Most lesions are the result of the victim's immune response to these insect secretions. In the case of Chagas disease, the infective organism is transmitted via the feces of a reduviid bug, which enters through the bite site when the wound becomes pruritic and is scratched. Most insect bites are minor and can result in superficial puncture wounds to the skin. Horseflies feed with a large scissorlike proboscis that can cause a relatively deep and painful wound.

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