» Vector

Jane Costa

The study of triatomine bugs, blood-eating insects that transmit the Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiologic agent of Chagas disease, was boosted when Carlos Chagas discovered American trypanosomiasis in Lassance, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, in 1909. Since then it has become evident that a new and intriguing research area was opening up and today it is in line with the development of science, embracing the most modern techniques and methodologies of research that bring together collaborations and partnerships in Brazil and abroad. Unfortunately, in spite of all the scientific and conceptual progress in the understanding of Chagas disease, this endemic condition is still a serious threat, especially for rural and less privileged populations. Controlling the vector is the key point to minimize disease transmission, because in spite of tireless efforts, an effective vaccine or treatment for the chronic phase of the infection is yet to be developed. Close contact between the vector insects infected by T. cruzi and humans is mainly favored by precarious housing conditions in rural areas, which creates favorable conditions for house infestation by triatomine bugs.
Much has been done to control the vector in Latin America, where Triatoma infestans, the main vector of the disease, has been eliminated. However, challenges remain, mainly due to the capacity of adaptation of these bugs to rapid environmental changes, as well as to the increase in the number of cases of the disease transmitted orally. Thus, multidisciplinary approaches for the vectors have been taking up an important role for a better guidance of control measures, as well as for a precise evaluation of the risks of transmission in a certain area. New methodologies have also been applied, especially in the field of ecology modelling, encompassing not only the distribution of triatomine insects but also the analysis of areas with higher risks of transmission. We therefore attempt to project into this virtual space some of the various facets from which it is possible to visualize and contextualize Chagas vectors, including: classic, molecular and biochemical systematics, morphology, ultrastructure, biology, physiology, behavior, and ecology, as well as vector control. Each of these topics was developed by specialists in a succint yet thorough fashion. We would also like to highlight the education aspect, which targets students from all levels. This area presents an illustrated and interactive approach that focuses on students of the early years, and a link to a technical manual that includes a general outlook on the disease and relevant information on the vectors.
The target public of this manual consists of technicians of public health surveillance secretaries and junior high and high school students. Therefore, in this site about vectors, we attempt to present a multidisciplinary and synergistic context that can translate the general overview in the field of entomology, showing the efforts, the importance and the applicability of this area in the field of endemic Chagas.