Nav: Home

Kissing bugs kiss their hiding spots goodbye, thanks to tiny radio transmitters

July 09, 2018

Annapolis, MD; July 9, 2018--With the continuing advance of technology, radio tracking devices keep getting smaller and smaller. And that's bad news for stealthy insects like kissing bugs.

In a new pilot study, researchers in Texas successfully attached miniature radio transmitters to kissing bugs and tracked their movements. Kissing bugs, also known as triatomine bugs, are a group of bloodsucking insects, found in Latin America and the southern United States, that transmit the pathogen that causes Chagas disease in humans and animals. They typically move at night and hide during day, and uncovering their secretive movements could play a key role in reducing their impact as a disease vector. The study's findings are published in a new report in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

"While studying kissing bugs in Texas, we have been perplexed regarding their movement behavior," says Gabriel Hamer, Ph.D., assistant professor of entomology at Texas A&M University and lead author on the study. During the bugs' adult dispersal season, for instance, Hamer's team has observed dozens of kissing bugs appear to synchronously emerge from natural habitat and arrive at homes. "Where are they coming from? How far are they traveling? Why are they dispersing? These observations and others provided the motivation to try to utilize a methodology to track wild kissing bugs and study movement."

Hamer and colleagues worked with three homeowners who have routinely found kissing bugs around their homes. The researchers searched out kissing bugs at night, captured them, and used superglue to attach a radio transmitter weighing just 0.2 grams to the back side of each bug's abdomen. They tagged and tracked 11 bugs in all, and they painted the transmitters with fluorescent paint to aid in re-discovery.

Returning in subsequent days and nights, Hamer's team was able to track 18 total movement events of the 11 bugs, ranging between one and 12 days later. The average distance moved--by walking only--was 12.5 feet, with a maximum of about 66 feet.

One particular bug the researchers tracked revealed just how elusive kissing bugs can be: It was initially captured near a dog kennel and was found the next day in a small slit where the top and bottom of the plastic kennel fit together. "This would have been a very difficult location to find without the use of radio telemetry," Hamer says. "The owner, who has historically lost several dogs to canine Chagas disease, regularly removes kissing bugs from inside and under the kennels, but any kissing bugs in the cryptic hiding location in the joint of the doghouse would have been missed."

Past studies have used radio transmitters to track beetles, bees, and other large insects--and much larger animals, of course--but never for arthropod disease vectors. The method is well suited to kissing bugs in part because they are a large blood-feeding insect and also because of the difficulty in using other mark-release-recapture methods, such as marking insects with paint.

"A challenge with kissing bugs is their population densities are typically low," Hamer says, "and given that the recapture rate would be expected to be very low (less than 5 percent), you would need to mark and release a lot of individuals in order to conduct a mark-release-recapture study."

The study marks an initial foray into tracking triatomines via radio telemetry, but it can open the door for more in-depth studies into kissing bugs' movements. Hamer says he is eager to continue this research and hopes other entomologists and vector-management researchers will take advantage of advances in radio telemetry to track behavior of kissing bugs and other insects.

"Kissing bug dispersal and movement behavior is fundamentally involved in the exposure of dogs and humans to the agent of Chagas disease. We hope that our research can continue to make advancements in our understanding of this kind of basic biology of the insect vector that will improve our ability to intervene and minimize Chagas disease," says Hamer.
-end-
"A pilot radio telemetry field study of triatomine vectors (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) of the Chagas disease parasite" will be published online on July 9 in the Journal of Medical Entomology. Journalists may request advance copies of the article via the contact below.

CONTACT: Joe Rominiecki, jrominiecki@entsoc.org, 301-731-4535 x3009

ABOUT: ESA is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has nearly 7,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, the Society stands ready as a non-partisan scientific and educational resource for all insect-related topics. For more information, visit http://www.entsoc.org.

The Journal of Medical Entomology publishes research related to all aspects of medical entomology and medical acarology, including the systematics and biology of insects, acarines, and other arthropods of public health and veterinary significance. For more information, visit https://academic.oup.com/jme, or visit http://www.insectscience.org to view the full portfolio of ESA journals and publications.

Entomological Society of America

Related Chagas Disease Articles:

Deaths from Chagas disease under-reported
Chagas disease, affecting millions of people in Central and South America, is classified as one of the 17 most important neglected diseases by the World Health Organization.
First large-scale survey of Chagas disease in the United States confirms that the 'silent killer' is a major public health challenge for the country
A study of almost 5,000 Latin American-born residents of Los Angeles County found that 1.24 percent tested positive for Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that can cause life-threatening heart damage if not treated early.
Findings support role of vascular disease in development of Alzheimer's disease
Among adults who entered a study more than 25 years ago, an increasing number of midlife vascular risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking, were associated with elevated levels of brain amyloid (protein fragments linked to Alzheimer's disease) later in life, according to a study published by JAMA.
Dietary factors associated with substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and disease
Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 were associated with suboptimal consumption of certain dietary factors, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.
Study links changes in oral microbiome with metabolic disease/risk for dental disease
A team of scientists from The Forsyth Institute and the Dasman Diabetes Institute in Kuwait have found that metabolic diseases, which are characterized by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity -- leads to changes in oral bacteria and puts people with the disease at a greater risk for poor oral health.
Targets and patented drugs for chemotherapy of Chagas disease
Chagas disease is a parasitic infection typically spread by triatomine vectors, affecting millions of people all over Latin America.
IDRI contributes to first point-of-care Chagas disease diagnostic for US
With Chagas disease becoming more prevalent in the United States, a diagnostic to quickly and easily detect infection is needed.
Seroprevalence and disease burden of chagas disease in south Texas
A paper published in PLOS Neglected Diseases led by researchers at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine suggests that the disease burden in southern Texas is much higher than previously thought.
Fatty liver disease contributes to cardiovascular disease and vice versa
For the first time, researchers have shown that a bi-directional relationship exists between fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease.
Resveratrol reverses heart damage in mice with Chagas disease
Resveratrol is the antioxidant found in red wine and famous as a food supplement capable of mimicking the effects of exercise and low calorie diets in the heart.

Related Chagas Disease Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...