Alteration of the aggregation and spatial organization of the vector of Chagas disease, Triatoma infestans, by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi

Stéphanie Depickère, Gonzalo Marcelo Ramírez-Ávila, Jean Louis Deneubourg

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2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Triatominae insects are vectors of the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of Chagas disease affecting millions of people in Latin America. Some species, such as Triatoma infestans, live in the human neighborhood, aggregating in walls or roof cracks during the day and going out to feed blood at night. The comprehension of how sex and T. cruzi infection affect their aggregation and geotaxis is essential for understanding their spatial organization and the parasite dispersion. Experiments in laboratory-controlled conditions were carried out with groups of ten adults of T. infestans able to explore and aggregate on a vertical surface. The influence of the sex (male vs. female) and the proportion of infected insects in the group were tested (100% of infected insects vs. a small proportion of infected insects, named infected and potentially weakly infected groups, respectively). Therefore, four distinct groups of insects were tested: infected males, infected females, potentially weakly infected males, and potentially weakly infected females, with 12, 9, 15, and 16 replicates, respectively. The insects presented a high negative geotaxis and a strong aggregation behavior whatever the sex or their infection. After an exploration phase, these behaviors were stable in time. The insects exhibited a preferential vertical position, head toward the top of the setup. Males had a higher negative geotaxis and a higher aggregation level than females. Both behaviors were enhanced in groups of 100% infected insects, the difference between sexes being maintained. According to a comparison between experimental and theoretical results, geotaxis favors the aggregation that mainly results from the inter-attraction between individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17432
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

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© 2019, The Author(s).

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