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Is Rhodnius robustus (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) responsible for Chagas disease transmission in Western Venezuela?

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We present evidence for the putative role of Rhodnius robustus as extradomestic vector of Chagas disease in Western Venezuela. First, we assessed the validity of this triatomine species by genetic characterization in relation with some other species of the prolixus group. Random amplified polymorphic DNA data showed a clear separation between this species and R. prolixus and indicated a probable genetic heterogeneity within R. robustus. Faeces and gut contents were microscopically examined in 54 of 137 R. robustus collected in palm trees. According to this morphological examination, 18% were positive for Trypanosoma cruzi, 11% harboured T. rangeli and 11% showed mixed infection. Five of the seven samples examined gave a polymerase chain reaction major band of 270 bp specific of T. cruzi. The hybridization probes showed that R. robustus may transmit clones 20 and 39 (or genetically related ones) in Venezuela. Such a transmission might occur when, in absence of domestic R. prolixus and attracted by artificial light, R. robustus enters houses and feeds on humans, or when people are bitten outdoors. The lack of bugs inside houses could mean that the insects leave houses after feeding, or die without reproducing there.
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Keywords: Chagas disease; Rhodnius robustus; Trypanosoma cruzi; Venezuela

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Universidad de Carabobo, Núcleo Aragua, BIOMED, Sección de Entomología Médica, Maracay, Venezuela, 2: Institut de recherche pour le Développement (IRD), UR062, UMR CNRS/IRD 9926, Montpelier, France, 3: Dirección de Vigilancia Epidemiológica Sanitario Ambiental, Dirección General de Salud Ambiental y Contraloría Sanitaria, MSDS, Maracay, Venezuela, 4: Instituto de Altos Estudios de Salud Pública `Dr Arnoldo Gabaldon', MSDS, Maracay, Venezuela, 5: Instituto Boliviano de Biología de Altura (IBBA), CP 641 La Paz, Bolivia

Publication date: March 1, 2002

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