Citizens and Public Health

Chagas disease is widespread in Central and South America. It is increasingly recognized as a problem in the southern United States. Chagas disease is caused by a protozoan, Trypanosoma cruzi, and is transmitted to humans by bites by some Triatoma spp. a.k.a. “kissing bugs”. These bugs feed on many animals including livestock and companion animals. In Texas, both vector and disease is present but the extent is being determined. A 2014 study* of dogs in animal shelters estimated an infection rate of over 8% of the dogs. In a Citizen Assisted project**, almost 2000 kissing bug samples were submitted by the public, one fourth of them from dog kennels. Tests on 694 insect found 63% infected with T. cruzi.** Although citizens do not sample comprehensively, their sampling indicates where humans are interacting with kissing bugs. From a public health point of view, suppressing Chagas disease by addressing the vectors and infected companion animals is important and citizen monitor of the vectors can provide useful data on where to focus efforts.

Kissing bugs

Kissing bugs Image: cdc.gov

*Trevor D. Tenney, Rachel Curtis-Robles, Karen F. Snowden, and Sarah A. Hamer. Shelter Dogs as Sentinels for Trypanosoma cruzi Transmission across Texas. Emerging Infectious Diseases. Volume 20, Number 8—August 2014

**Curtis-Robles R, Wozniak EJ, Auckland LD, Hamer GL, Hamer SA (2015) Combining Public Health Education and Disease Ecology Research: Using Citizen Science to Assess Chagas Disease Entomological Risk in Texas. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 9(12): e0004235.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0004235

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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