Researchers Use Tiny Transmitters To Track Chagas Disease-Spreading ‘Kissing Bugs”

A team of Texas A&M researchers fastened miniature radio transmitters to the backs of elusive triatomine bugs to track and study their movements in an effort to better understand their habits and it is hoped one day reduce the risk for Chagas disease.

The bugs — also known as “kissing bugs” — carry and spread Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease, a neglected tropical infection endemic throughout much of Central and South America.

According to the CDC, most of the more than 300,000 people in the United States who have Chagas disease acquired their infection in a country where it is endemic. But locally transmitted cases do occur, linked mostly to outdoor activities like hunting and camping or when the bugs seek hosts in or near homes, a problem that is exacerbated by urban sprawl, according to Gabriel Hamer, PhD, assistant professor of entomology at Texas A&M University, and colleagues.

Hamer and his team of researchers were “perplexed” by the movement and behavior of kissing bugs in Texas, including the apparent synchronous emergence of dozens of the insects from their natural habitat and their arrival in homes, according to a news release.

“Where are they coming from? How far are they traveling? Why are they dispersing?” Hamer said in the release. (more..)

Article by Caitlyn Stulpin, Healio in the journals plus

Department of Entomology