Chagas disease is a chronic incurable infection that causes cardiac and digestive problems in canines, humans and many free-ranging mammals. The primary insects that transmit Chagas disease are triatomines—commonly known as kissing bugs but also known as reduviid bugs, assassin bugs or blood suckers—and are found from South America through the United States. There is growing concern about the disease in the southern United States, though the role of free-ranging wildlife populations as host species is poorly understood.  

NRI collaborated with the U.S. Air Force to describe the prevalence of Chagas disease on Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) and determine the role that free-ranging wildlife play in the life cycle in the natural environment. JBSA hosts thousands of military and civilian personnel and houses an important military working dog training facility. Our research included extensive wildlife blood and tissue sampling, triatomine capture and analysis, spatial and vegetation analyses, and behavioral experiments.

Our joint efforts found that free-ranging wildlife, particularly burrow-dwelling mid-sized animals, are important hosts for Chagas disease. We also found that triatomines are found throughout the study environment during peak activity seasons and commonly carry Chagas disease, which poses an important safety risk to human and canine residents. The Department of Defense will be able to use our research to minimize human and canine exposure to Chagas disease.

Israel Parker
israel.parker@ag.tamu.edu

Dr. Israel Parker joined the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute as a research scientist and mammalogist in 2012. He conducts research at locations around the United States and leads collaborations with multiple researc…

Roel Lopez
roel@tamu.edu

As director for the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, Dr. Roel Lopez provides leadership in the field of wildlife ecology and natural resource management. Roel works with internal and external stakeholders in develop…

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