Triatominae vectors of Chagas disease

Published on October 26, 2010 Reviewed on April 12, 2022   28 min

A selection of talks on Infectious Diseases

This is an introductory lecture about the biology and control of triatomine bugs, the vectors of Chagas disease in Latin America. I am Chris Schofield from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I coordinate the ECLAT network, which was set up to provide technical and research support for the various multinational control initiatives against Chagas disease. This lecture is designed to show the basic biology of triatomine bugs, their importance as vectors of Chagas disease, and the rationale behind the multinational programs against them.
So, here are the bugs. This is Triatoma infestans. This is the main domestic vector species in the southern part of South America. This is just one block from the wall of a house in Chile that has been pulled out and turned over to give an idea of the sheer quantity of bugs that can live in someone's house. These bugs are large. Adults can be up to 2 and 1/2 centimeters long. They're very unpleasant, and they take a lot of blood, contributing to chronic iron deficiency anemia. But they also transmit Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease, which is also known as American Trypanosomiasis. No one should have to live with these bugs in their houses.
Chagas disease takes its name from Brazilian clinician Carlos Chagas, who first described the disease in 1909. The centenary of his discovery is celebrated in this postage stamp issued by Brazil in 2009. It shows Chagas in the village of Lassance, where he first encountered the bugs and the disease they transmit. Chagas was a remarkable man and an outstanding scientist. He described the disease, its causative agent, the vectors, and some of the reservoir hosts. He also pioneered attempts to control it, recognizing that the key to disease control was to eliminate the vector insects.