Triatoma infestans —the principal vector of the infection that causes Chagas disease— defies elimination efforts in the Gran Chaco region. This study identifies the types of human-made or -used structures that are key sources of these bugs in the initial stages of house reinfestation after an insecticide spraying campaign.
We measured demographic and blood-feeding parameters at two geographic scales in 11 rural communities in Figueroa, northwest Argentina. Of 1,297 sites searched in spring, 279 (21.5%) were infested. Bug abundance per site and female fecundity differed significantly among habitat types (ecotopes) and were highly aggregated. Domiciles (human sleeping quarters) had maximum infestation prevalence (38.7%), human-feeding bugs and total egg production, with submaximal values for other demographic and blood-feeding attributes. Taken collectively peridomestic sites were three times more often infested than domiciles. Chicken coops had greater bug abundance, blood-feeding rates, engorgement status, and female fecundity than pig and goat corrals. The host-feeding patterns were spatially structured yet there was strong evidence of active dispersal of late-stage bugs between ecotopes. Two flight indices predicted that female fliers were more likely to originate from kitchens and domiciles, rejecting our initial hypothesis that goat and pig corrals would dominate.
Chicken coops and domiciles were key source habitats fueling rapid house reinfestation. Focusing control efforts on ecotopes with human-fed bugs (domiciles, storerooms, goat corrals) would neither eliminate the substantial contributions to bug population growth from kitchens, chicken coops, and pig corrals nor stop dispersal of adult female bugs from kitchens. Rather, comprehensive control of the linked network of ecotopes is required to prevent feeding on humans, bug population growth, and bug dispersal simultaneously. Our study illustrates a demographic approach that may be applied to other regions and triatomine species for the design of innovative, improved vector control strategies.
The major vectors of Chagas disease are species of triatomine bugs adapted to human sleeping quarters and peridomestic annexes where they feed on humans and domestic or synanthropic mammals or birds. Knowledge of the demography and nutritional status of Triatominae in real-life settings is still fragmentary, and this affects our ability to prevent or reduce house reinfestation after insecticide spraying. In addition to showing where the bugs are likely to live (occupancy and density information), our observations and analysis of flight dispersal provide insights into where bugs are likely to originate. Data on nymphal and adult sex ratios, nutritional status, and female fecundity point to the key ecotopes and sites driving the population growth of the bugs and fueling house reinfestation. Focusing control efforts on the three ecotopes (human sleeping quarters, storerooms, and goat corrals) that housed reactive, human-fed bugs would neither eliminate the substantial contributions to bug population growth from kitchens, chicken coops, and pig corrals nor stop dispersal of adult female bugs from kitchens. Rather, comprehensive control of the linked network of ecotopes in a typical house compound and community is required to prevent feeding on humans, bug population growth, and bug dispersal simultaneously.