Combining Public Health Education and Disease Ecology Research: Using Citizen Science to Assess Chagas Disease Entomological Risk in Texas

Rachel Curtis-Robles, Edward J. Wozniak, Lisa D. Auckland, Gabriel L. Hamer, Sarah A. Hamer, Ricardo E. Gürtler
2015 PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  
Chagas disease is a zoonotic parasitic disease well-documented throughout the Americas and transmitted primarily by triatomine 'kissing bug' vectors. In acknowledgment of the successful history of vector control programs based on community participation across Latin America, we used a citizen science approach to gain novel insight into the geographic distribution, seasonal activity, and Trypanosoma cruzi infection prevalence of kissing bugs in Texas while empowering the public with information
more » ... bout Chagas disease. Methodology/Principal Findings We accepted submissions of kissing bugs encountered by the public in Texas and other states from 2013-2014 while providing educational literature about Chagas disease. In the laboratory, kissing bugs were identified to species, dissected, and tested for T. cruzi infection. A total of 1,980 triatomines were submitted to the program comprised of at least seven species, of which T. gerstaeckeri and T. sanguisuga were the most abundant (85.7% of submissions). Triatomines were most commonly collected from dog kennels and outdoor patios; Overall, 10.5% of triatomines were collected from inside the home. Triatomines were submitted from across Texas, including many counties which were not previously known to harbor kissing bugs. Kissing bugs were captured primarily throughout April-October, and peak activity occurred in June-July. Emails to our dedicated account regarding kissing bugs were more frequent in the summer months (June-August) than the rest of the year. We detected T. cruzi in 63.3% of tested bugs. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases | We created a kissing bug citizen science program in Texas to educate the public about Chagas disease, a vector-borne disease of humans and dogs, and to create a mechanism for the public to submit triatomine 'kissing bug' vectors to our research program. From May 2013 to December 2014, we designed an interactive website, distributed pamphlets, and responded to emails and phone calls from the public. This resulted in the submission of 1,980 kissing bugs, mostly collected from dog kennels and outdoor patios, expanding the geographic regions known to harbor kissing bugs in Texas and allowing insight into a cross-section of bugs of high epidemiological and veterinary relevance. Citizen submissions of kissing bugs peaked in June-July and showed 63.3% infection prevalence with Trypanosoma cruzi. Citizen science is an efficient mechanism for gaining novel insight into vector occurrence and infection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0004235 pmid:26658425 pmcid:PMC4687635 fatcat:lsnddlplqvfrbfpn3hcbhqgvh4