Although Brazil was declared free from Chagas disease transmission by the domestic vector Triatoma infestans, human acute cases are still being registered based on transmission by native triatomine species. For a better understanding of transmission risk, the geographic distribution of Brazilian triatomines was analyzed. Sixteen out of 62 Brazilian species that both occur in >20 municipalities and present synanthropic tendencies were modeled based on their ecological niches. Panstrongylus geniculatus and P. megistus showed broad ecological ranges, but most of the species sort out by the biome in which they are distributed: Rhodnius pictipes and R. robustus in the Amazon; R. neglectus, Triatoma sordida, and T. costalimai in the Cerrado; R. nasutus, P. lutzi, T. brasiliensis, T. pseudomaculata, T. melanocephala, and T. petrocchiae in the Caatinga; T. rubrovaria in the southern pampas; T. tibiamaculata and T. vitticeps in the Atlantic Forest. Although most occurrences were recorded in open areas (Cerrado and Caatinga), our results show that all environmental conditions in the country are favorable to one or more of the species analyzed, such that almost nowhere is Chagas transmission risk negligible.
Chagas disease incidence has sharply declined over the last decade. Long-term disease control will, however, require extensive, longitudinal surveillance systems capable of detecting (and dealing with) reinvasion-reinfestation of insecticide-treated dwellings by non-domiciliated triatomines. Sound surveillance design calls for reliable data on vector ecology, and these data must cover different spatial scales. We conducted a multi-scale assessment of ecological and evolutionary trends in members of the tribe Rhodniini, including (i) a macroscale analysis of Rhodniini species richness and composition patterns across the Americas, and (ii) a detailed, mesoscale case-study of ecological and behavioural trends in Rhodnius neglectus and R. nasutus. Our macroscale overview provides some comprehensive insights about key mechanisms/processes probably underlying ecological and genetic diversification in the Rhodniini. These insights translate into a series of testable hypotheses about current species distributions and their likely causes. At the landscape scale, we used geometric morphometrics to identify dubious specimens as either R. neglectus or R. nasutus (two near-sibling species), and studied palm tree populations of these two vector taxa in five geographical areas. The data suggest that deforestation and the associated loss of habitat and host diversity might increase the frequency of vector-human contact (and perhaps Trypanosoma cruzi infection rates in vectors). Surveillance in central-northeastern Brazil should prioritise deforested landscapes where large palm trees (e.g., Attalea, Mauritia, Copernicia, Acrocomia or Syagrus) occur near houses. We anticipate that, by helping define the distribution patterns and ecological preferences of each species, multi-scale research will significantly strengthen vector surveillance systems across Latin America.
BackgroundSpotted fever is a tick-borne rickettsial disease. In Brazil, its notification to the Ministry of Health is compulsory. Since 2007, cases of spotted fever have been integrated to the Notifiable Diseases Information System, and epidemiological analyzes are part of the routines on surveillance programs.MethodsThis descriptive study updates epidemiological information on cases of spotted fever registered in Brazil between 2007 and 2015.ResultsIn Brazil, 17,117 suspected cases of the disease were reported and 1,245 were confirmed in 12 states, mainly in São Paulo (550, 44.2 %) and Santa Catarina (276, 22.2 %). No geographic information was registered for 132 cases (10.6 %). Most of the infected people were men (70.9 %), mainly in rural areas (539, 43.3 %), who had contact with ticks (72.7 %). A higher number of suspected cases were registered between 2011 and 2015, but the number of confirmed cases and the incidence were relatively low. Moreover, 411 deaths were registered between 2007 and 2015, mainly in the southeastern region of the country, where the case-fatality rate was 55 %. Lack of proper filling of important fields of notification forms was also observed.ConclusionsThe results showed expansion of suspected cases of spotted fever and high case-fatality rates, which could be related to diagnostic difficulties and lack of prompt treatment. These factors may comprise limitations to the epidemiological surveillance system in Brazil, hence improvement of notification and investigation are crucial to reduce morbidity and mortality due to spotted fever in Brazil.
The intergenic region of spliced-leader (SL-IR) genes from 105 Trypanosoma cruzi I (Tc I) infected biological samples, culture isolates and stocks from 11 endemic countries, from Argentina to the USA were characterised, allowing identification of 76 genotypes with 54 polymorphic sites from 123 aligned sequences. On the basis of the microsatellite motif proposed by Herrera et al. (2007) to define four haplotypes in Colombia, we could classify these genotypes into four distinct Tc I SL-IR groups, three corresponding to the former haplotypes Ia (11 genotypes), Ib (11 genotypes) and Id (35 genotypes); and one novel group, Ie (19 genotypes). Genotypes harboring the Tc Ic motif were not detected in our study. Tc Ia was associated with domestic cycles in southern and northern South America and sylvatic cycles in Central and North America. Tc Ib was found in all transmission cycles from Colombia. Tc Id was identified in all transmission cycles from Argentina and Colombia, including Chagas cardiomyopathy patients, sylvatic Brazilian samples and human cases from French Guiana, Panama and Venezuela. Tc Ie gathered five samples from domestic Triatoma infestans from northern Argentina, nine samples from wild Mepraia spinolai and Mepraia gajardoi and two chagasic patients from Chile and one from a Bolivian patient with chagasic reactivation. Mixed infections by Tc Ia + Tc Id, Tc Ia + Tc Ie and Tc Id + Tc Ie were detected in vector faeces and isolates from human and vector samples. In addition, Tc Ia and Tc Id were identified in different tissues from a heart transplanted Chagas cardiomyopathy patient with reactivation, denoting histotropism. Trypanosoma cruzi I SL-IR genotypes from parasites infecting Triatoma gerstaeckeri and Didelphis virginiana from USA, T. infestans from Paraguay, Rhodnius nasutus and Rhodnius neglectus from Brazil and M. spinolai and M. gajardoi from Chile are to our knowledge described for the first time.
Identifying morphologically similar triatomine species is key to Chagas' disease vector control and surveillance, but remains challenging when only qualitative phenotypic data are available. We investigated whether morphometric and ecological variation can provide additional criteria for species delimitation by combining geometric morphometrics and ecological niche modelling to characterize two near-sibling triatomine species, Triatoma sordida and Triatoma garciabesi (Reduviidae: Triatominae). We analysed size and shape variation in 231 wings and 123 heads from one T. garciabesi and three T. sordida populations. Predicted distribution maps (21 climatic variables, 324 vector occurrence points) were produced using the Maxent method. Multivariate analyses summarized morphological and ecological variation. Wings and heads of T. sordida were significantly larger and more elongated than those of T. garciabesi. Discriminant analyses separated the species, with a partial overlap between Argentinean populations. The predicted distribution of T. garciabesi included northwest Argentina (mainly arid Chaco), whereas that of T. sordida included northeast Argentina (humid Chaco) and the Brazilian Cerrado and Caatinga ecoregions. Clear ecological niche differences were observed, with T. garciabesi occupying colder and drier areas than T. sordida. Our results show how morphometric variation and niche divergence can be used to enhance operational criteria for the delimitation of phenotypically similar triatomine species.
Identification of arthropods important in disease transmission is a crucial, yet difficult, task that can demand considerable training and experience. An important case in point is that of the 150+ species of Triatominae, vectors of Trypanosoma cruzi, causative agent of Chagas disease across the Americas. We present a fully automated system that is able to identify triatomine bugs from Mexico and Brazil with an accuracy consistently above 80%, and with considerable potential for further improvement. The system processes digital photographs from a photo apparatus into landmarks, and uses ratios of measurements among those landmarks, as well as (in a preliminary exploration) two measurements that approximate aspects of coloration, as the basis for classification. This project has thus produced a working prototype that achieves reasonably robust correct identification rates, although many more developments can and will be added, and—more broadly—the project illustrates the value of multidisciplinary collaborations in resolving difficult and complex challenges.
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