Triatomine bugs are a group of hematophagous arthropods that can serve as biological vectors for Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease). Because of differences in the biology and feeding habits among triatomine species, some are more likely than others to be involved in zoonotic and/or human-to-human transmission cycles of T. cruzi. In an attempt to assess the risk for Chagas disease exposure in south-central Texas, human habitations across Texas Health Service Region 8 (HSR 8) and surrounding counties were surveyed for triatomines to characterize the geographic distribution, species-specific biology, and T. cruzi–infection prevalence better. Between May 2010 and August 2013, a total of 545 triatomines representing all 5 known indigenous species (Triatoma gerstaeckeri, Triatoma indictiva, Triatoma lecticularia, Triatoma sanguisuga, and Triatoma protracta woodi) were collected from 59 sites across the region. Triatoma gerstaeckeri was the species most commonly found in domestic and peridomestic ecotopes across Texas HSR 8, representing over 80% of the triatomines collected. Adult T. gerstaeckeri exhibited a seasonal dispersal pattern that began in late April, peaked in mid-May, and then continued into August. On homes with available crevices in the exterior walls, adult T. gerstaeckeri were observed emerging from or entering these protective microhabitats, suggesting possible opportunistic colonization of some exterior walls compartments. Laboratory testing of triatomine hindgut contents for T. cruzi by PCR demonstrated the adult T. gerstaeckeri–infection prevalence across Texas HSR 8 to be 64%. Monitoring peridomestic adult T. gerstaeckeri over the seasonal dispersal peak demonstrated statistically significant increases in both their T. cruzi–infection prevalence (P < 0.01) and tendency to invade human dwellings (P < 0.01) in the later aspect of the emergence peak. In addition to the adult insects, variably sized and staged nymphs were recovered from the inside of 6 separate homes across Texas HSR 8. The results of this study show that T. gerstaeckeri is a widespread and common triatomine species across Texas HSR 8 and documented it to have some notable synanthropic tendencies. The high prevalence of T. cruzi infection in native triatomines, and the high frequency with which T. gerstaeckeri is recovered from human habitations, suggests that there is a risk for human exposure to T. cruzi in Texas HSR 8. Because of this, Chagas disease should be considered on the list of differential diagnoses for cases of cardiac arrhythmia, dilated cardiomyopathy, or heart failure in south-central Texas.

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