Risk factors associated with house infestation by the Chagas disease vector Triatoma pallidipennis in Cuernavaca metropolitan area, Mexico

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Chagas disease caused by infection with Trypanosoma cruzi Chagas (Kinetoplastida: Trypanosomatidae) is widespread in Mexico, transmitted by various triatomine bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae). The only domestic vector in Cuernavaca (population 650 000) is Triatoma pallidipennis (Ståhl) with T. cruzi seroprevalence ranging from 1% to 9% in the resident human population. We surveyed possible risk factors for T. pallidipennis infestation at Cuernavaca (altitude 1200–2200 m) on south-western slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental. This metropolitan area (with five administrative counties) has rapid urbanization, forested environs and proliferation of ‘weekend housing’ for visitors from Mexico City, 60 km to the north.To assess factors associated with T. pallidipennis infestation, we first stratified Cuernavaca by altitude and by socio-economic status of population catchment units (PCUs). Within each PCU, one to three blocks were chosen for cluster sampling (three houses/block) and information about Chagas disease was distributed. After obtaining signed consent from householders, representative houses were routinely and opportunistically inspected for T. pallidipennis and surveyed for demographic, economic, physical and other potential risk factors.Of the 1129 houses assessed, T. pallidipennis was found in 4.1% (range 3.0–6.8% per county) and the T. cruzi infection rate was ∼50% in bugs. Rates of house infestation in poor PCUs were double those in higher socio-economic strata (odds ratio 2.12, confidence interval 1.03–4.3), with >4-fold greater crowding index of T. pallidipennis. The bug density index was inversely correlated with PCU altitude and socio-economic category (altitude of homes being associated with prosperity), while the bug colonization index (presence of nymphs indicating breeding) did not vary significantly across the PCU categories, but did vary according to altitude.Multivariate regression analysis showed that the most significant risk factors associated with T. pallidipennis infestation were lower altitude (linked with lower socio-economic status), garden area >80 m2, dogs at liberty to enter the house, occurrence of squirrels and opossums around the house, presence of pigs in the surrounding area and having at least one of the adjacent lots empty (unconstructed).Householders who had received information about Chagas disease comprised 33% from infested houses (14/42) but only 15% from non-infested houses (148/984). Hence, the awareness of Chagas disease was significantly associated with having a bug-free house (P < 0.01). When shown specimens of T. pallidipennis, the proportions of householders who recognized them were 78% from infested houses but only 29% of those with uninfested houses. Given the low infestation rates and the high capacity of the population to act appropriately once they have received information regarding this disease and its vector, relevant health education is expected to have a significant impact on triatomine control in this metropolitan area.

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