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Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical

Print version ISSN 0037-8682

Rev. Soc. Bras. Med. Trop. vol.45 no.1 Uberaba Jan./Feb. 2012 



Synanthropic triatomines (Hemiptera, Reduviidae) in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil: geographical distribution and natural Trypanosoma infection rates between 2006 and 2007


Triatomíneos sinantrópicos (Hemiptera, Reduviidae) no estado de Pernambuco, Brasil: distribuição geográfica e índices de infecção natural por Trypanosoma entre 2006 e 2007



Maria Beatriz Araújo SilvaI, II; Ana Virgínia Matos Sá BarretoI; Helker Albuquerque da SilvaII; Cleber GalvãoIII; Dayse RochaIII; José JurbergIII; Rodrigo Gurgel-GonçalvesIV

ILaboratório Central de Saúde Pública, Secretaria Estadual de Saúde do Estado de Pernambuco, Recife, PE
IIFaculdade de Enfermagem Nossa Senhora das Graças, Universidade de Pernambuco, Recife, PE
IIILaboratório Nacional e Internacional de Referência em Taxonomia de Triatomíneos, Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, RJ
IVLaboratório de Parasitologia Médica e Biologia de Vetores, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Brasília, Brasilia, DF

Address to




INTRODUCTION: The present study shows a descriptive analysis of triatomine occurrence and its natural Trypanosoma infection rates in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil, between 2006 and 2007.
METHODS: Entomological data for the species, such as specimens captured in both intra and peridomiciles and natural infection index, were obtained via domiciliary capture in 147 municipalities from 11 Regional Managements of Health. The database was obtained from a sample of insects (100% infected and 20% non-infected) sent to the Central Laboratory of Pernambuco.
RESULTS: A total of 18,029 triatomines were analyzed from 138 municipalities of the state. Triatoma pseudomaculata (35%), Triatoma brasiliensis (34%), and Panstrongylus lutzi (25%) were the most captured species. These species also showed a widespread geographical distribution in the state. Panstrongylus megistus, Triatoma petrocchiae, Triatoma melanocephala, Triatoma sordida, Rhodnius nasutus, Rhodnius neglectus, and Triatoma infestans showed more limited geographical distribution and lower relative abundance. The parasitological research showed that 8.8% of the triatomines were naturally infected with flagellates morphologically similar to Trypanosoma cruzi and 91.3% of them were captured inside houses in 113 municipalities. P. lutzi showed the highest rates of natural infection.
CONCLUSIONS: After the control of T. infestans, synanthropic species, such as T. brasiliensis, T. pseudomaculata, and P. lutzi, maintain the risk of T. cruzi transmission to humans in the state of Pernambuco. These species are widely distributed, and infected specimens have been found inside houses. Thus, an enhanced surveillance and vector control of Chagas disease is recommended in Pernambuco.

Keywords: Triatominae. Vector surveillance. Chagas disease. Pernambuco. Brazil.


INTRODUÇÃO: O presente estudo apresenta uma análise descritiva da ocorrência de triatomíneos e seus índices de infecção natural por Trypanosoma no Estado de Pernambuco, entre 2006 e 2007.
MÉTODOS: Dados entomológicos para as espécies de triatomíneos, tais como espécimes capturados no intra e peridomicílio, e índice de infecção natural foram obtidos por meio da captura domiciliar em 147 municípios das 11 Gerências Regionais de Saúde. A pequisa foi baseada em uma amostra de insetos (100% dos infectados e 20% dos não infectados) enviados para o Laboratório Central de Pernambuco.
RESULTADOS: No total, 18.029 triatomíneos foram analisados provenientes de 138 municípios. Triatoma pseudomaculata (35%), Triatoma brasiliensis (34%) e Panstrongylus lutzi (25%) foram as espécies mais capturadas. Estas espécies também apresentaram ampla distribuição geográfica no estado. Panstrongylus megistus, Triatoma petrocchiae, Triatoma melanocephala, Triatoma sordida, Rhodnius nasutus, Rhodnius neglectus e Triatoma infestans apresentaram distribuição geográfica mais restrita e menores valores de abundância relativa. A pesquisa parasitológica mostrou que 8,8% dos triatomíneos estavam infectados por flagelados morfologicamente similares a Trypanosoma cruzi e 91,3% deles foram capturados no interior das habitações em 113 municípios. P. lutzi apresentou as maiores taxas de infecção natural.
CONCLUSÕES: Após o controle do T. infestans, as espécies sinantrópicas T. brasiliensis, T. pseudomaculata e P. lutzi mantêm o risco de transmissão do T. cruzi ao homem no Estado de Pernambuco. Estas espécies são amplamente distribuídas e espécimes infectados foram encontrados dentro das casas. Assim, nossos resultados recomendam reforçar a vigilância e controle vetorial da doença de Chagas em Pernambuco.

Palavras-chaves: Triatominae. Vigilância vetorial. Doença de Chagas. Pernambuco. Brasil.




Today, Chagas disease or American Trypanosomiasis continues to be a chronic and potentially fatal illness in Latin America1. According to estimates by the Pan American Health Organization, 20% of Latin American population was at risk (109 million individuals), and nearly 7.7 million individuals were infected in 2005 (1.9 million in Brazil)2-3. The etiological agent, Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas, 1909), is mainly transmitted by hematophagous insects of the subfamily Triatominae (Hemiptera, Reduviidae) adapted to colonize human dwellings4.

The estimated prevalence of human Chagas disease in the State of Pernambuco, Northeastern Brazil, in the 1980s was 2.8%, and seropositive people were detected in 144 of 163 municipalities5. In the 1990s, serological surveys showed that infections with T. cruzi still occur in the state6-7. According to the last national survey of Chagas disease seroprevalence carried out in Brazil between 2001 and 2008, four positive cases were detected in Pernambuco. One case involved a child below 5 years whose mother was also seropositive8.

Currently, the subfamily Triatominae contains 142 species, grouped into 18 genera and five tribes9-12. In Brazil, there are 62 recognized species of Triatominae (Galvão and Gurgel-Gonçalves unpublished data). Pioneering studies on the vectors of Chagas disease in Pernambuco reported the occurrence of Triatoma infestans (Klug 1834) and other eight species13-15. Triatoma brasiliensis Neiva, 1911 and Triatoma pseudomaculata Corrêa & Espinola, 1964 are the most captured triatomines among the 13 species registered in the State of Pernambuco7,16-17.

The occurrence of native triatomine species that sporadically invade or reinvade human dwellings is a major difficulty for the consolidation of vector control18-19. Knowledge of geographical distribution and natural infection of these bugs is fundamental to the understanding of epidemiological aspects related to the T. cruzi transmission and should be considered to guide the actions of control and surveillance of Chagas disease. Thus, the aim of the present work was to analyze the geographical distribution of triatomines and their natural Trypanosoma infection in the State of Pernambuco, according to the Regional Managements of Health between 2006 and 2007.



The state of Pernambuco is geographically situated in the northeast region of Brazil. According to the IBGE (Census 2010), this state is divided into 185 municipalities, covering an area of 98,146.315km2, with a population of 8,796,448 people. Eighty percent of the population is in urban areas ( Municipalities are distributed in five geographical regions: the metropolitan area of Recife (coastal region with mangrove and Atlantic rainforest), Zona da Mata (Atlantic rainforest), Agreste (area of transition between the Atlantic rainforest and the Caatinga), Sertão, and Sertão do São Francisco (areas of semi-arid Caatinga). All of them are operationally subordinated to eleven Regional Managements of Health (Gerência Regional de Saúde - GERES), Figure 1. Entomological data were obtained via domiciliary capture in 147 municipalities from 11 GERES of the State of Pernambuco between 2006 and 2007. During the conduct of this research, Afogados da Ingazeira and Serra Talhada were part of the same GERES, but in 2007, this GERES was divided (Figure 1).

Triatomines were collected manually by the agents of endemic diseases in the municipalities and sent to the GERES. The materials used for triatomine collection were metal tweezers and flashlights to inspect cracks and sites deprived of light, and, when necessary, dislodging liquid (Pirisa 2%) was applied.

The database used in this study considered a sample of insects sent by the 11 GERES of the state to the Laboratory of Endemic Diseases, Central Laboratory of Pernambuco (LABEND/LACEN-PE). This laboratory was responsible for quality control (taxonomic identification and parasitological exams of triatomines) and helped in the surveillance activities. The database included all infected bugs and 20% of the negative bugs after laboratory examination in the GERES. Those insects were taken for a reexamination between January 2006 and December 2007. For the 2006 database, we considered the following entomological indicators: number of insects captured in the municipality (males, females, and nymphs) in both intra and peridomiciles and the number of infected bugs by flagellates morphologically similar to T. cruzi.

Triatomines were identified to the species level according to Lent and Wygodzinsky4. The parasitological research was conducted through abdominal compression of triatomines and subsequent examination of fresh feces. The phenotypic identification of the parasites was made by observation under a microscope of Giemsa-stained insect feces. The natural infection rate was obtained from the ratio between the number of infected insects and the number of insects examined ×10020.



A total of 18,029 triatomines were analyzed from 138 municipalities of the state between 2006 and 2007. The 10 identified species were: Triatoma pseudomaculata, Triatoma brasiliensis, Panstrongylus lutzi (Neiva and Pinto, 1923), Panstrongylus megistus (Burmeister, 1835), Triatoma petrocchiae Pinto & Barreto, 1925, Triatoma melanocephala Neiva and Pinto, 1923, Triatoma sordida (Stål, 1859), Triatoma infestans, Rhodnius nasutus Stål, 1859 and Rhodnius neglectus Lent, 1954.

Triatoma pseudomaculata (35%), T. brasiliensis (34%), and P. lutzi (25%) were the most captured species considering the sample of insects examined. These species also showed a widespread geographical distribution in the state. The other species showed more limited geographical distribution and lower relative abundance (Figure 2). The parasitological research showed that 8.8% of the triatomines were naturally infected with flagellates morphologically similar to Trypanosoma cruzi, and 91.3% of them were captured inside houses in 113 municipalities. T. melanocephala and P. lutzi showed the highest rates of natural infection (Table 1). However, T. melanocephala had a little representation in the sample analyzed.

The geographical distribution and relative abundance of triatomine species captured at 11 GERES are shown in Figure 2. Details about the occurrence and natural infection of these species in each region are listed below.

GERES I - Recife

This GERES includes the Metropolitan Region of Recife and other 18 municipalities. Between 2007 and 2007, 16 municipalities did not send bugs to control quality in LABEND. Chagas disease vectors were found in two municipalities (Vitória and Pombos). By the time of this research, a total of 215 specimens of T. pseudomaculata and P. lutzi were examined with predominance of the first (Figure 2). In relation to the place of capture, 92.2% were found inside houses. Adults and nymphs of T. pseudomaculata were recorded, but only adult specimens of P. lutzi were captured. No triatomine was found infected in this GERES.

GERES II - Limoeiro

This GERES is composed of 31 municipalities located in the northern Zona da Mata, and 22 (71%) of them were positive for four species: Panstrongylus lutzi, T. pseudomaculata, T. melanocephala, and P. megistus. A total of 2.667 triatomines were examined.

T. pseudomaculata was predominant in this GERES (Figure 2). The majority of the insects (96.7%) were found inside houses. Nymphs of all species were captured in this GERES, except T. melanocephala. Infected triatomines were found in 19 municipalities.

GERES III - Palmares

It is composed of 22 municipalities located in the southern Zona da Mata region. However, 18 municipalities did not send bugs to LABEND. Panstrongylus megistus was the main species among the 180 triatomines captured (Figure 2) in four municipalities (Quipapá, São Benedito do Sul, Belém de Maria e Lagoa dos Gatos) especially inside domiciles (87.3%) where adults and nymphs were found. No triatomine was found infected in this GERES.

GERES IV - Caruaru

This GERES is located in the northern Agreste region, and 30 out of 32 municipalities surveyed were positive for triatomines. Six triatomine species were detected, mainly P. lutzi (Figure 2). A total of 1,578 specimens were captured (92.4% of them inside houses). Nymphs, males, and females ofP. lutzi, T. pseudomaculata, and T. brasiliensis were collected. For other species, only adult specimens were collected. By the time of the study, 293 triatomines were infected in 16 municipalities.

GERES V - Garanhuns

This GERES is composed of 21 municipalities located in the southern Agreste region, and 20 of them registered the presence of vectors. Four species were detected (Figure 2). A total of 1,171 specimens were captured (92.4% of them inside houses). Nymphs of T. pseudomaculata and P. lutzi were not registered. Infected triatomines were found in 18 municipalities.

GERES VI - Arcoverde

Triatoma pseudomaculata, T. brasiliensis, and P. lutzi were the most captured species in all the 13 municipalities that compose this GERES, located in the Sertão region. A total of 2,531 specimens were captured; 80.9% of them were found inside houses with predominance of T. brasiliensis (Figure 2). Nymphs of T. brasiliensis and T. pseudomaculata were captured. Infected bugs were detected in 10 municipalities.

GERES VII - Salgueiro

Triatomines were captured in all 7 municipalities that compose this GERES, which is located in the Sertão region. Triatoma brasiliensis predominated among the four species detected (Figure 2). Exceptionally, the presence of Rhodnius neglectus was detected (two non-infected males inside domicile). Most of the 992 (94.8%) triatomines captured were found inside domiciles. Infected bugs were detected in 6 municipalities.

GERES VIII - Petrolina

Triatomines were captured in 6 out of the 7 municipalities of this GERES located in the Sertão do São Francisco region. This region presented a different profile in relation to the site of capture; 65% of all triatomines were found in the peridomiciles, totaling 1,974 specimens with predominance of Triatoma brasiliensis (Figure 2). Another peculiarity of this region was the presence of two species not detected in other GERES during the development of this work (Rhodnius nasutus and Triatoma infestans). Infected bugs were detected in 3 municipalities. Triatoma infestans specimens were captured inside houses in one municipality (Lagoa Grande), but they were not infected.

GERES IX - Ouricuri

Triatomines were captured in all the 11 municipalities that compose this GERES, located in the Sertão region. Similar to GERES VIII, there was a predominance of triatomines in peridomiciles (79.2% of the 1,967 captured triatomines). Triatoma pseudomaculata (Figure 2) was the most captured species. As observed in GERES VIII, Triatoma sordida occurred rarely. Infected bugs were detected in 10 municipalities.

GERES X and GERES XI - Afogados da Ingazeira and Serra Talhada

Triatomines were captured in all the 22 municipalities that compose these GERESes, located in the Sertão region. Seven species were detected (Figure 2), and a total of 1,730 specimens were captured from both GERESes in 2006. In 2007, after the separation of these two GERESes, 1,929 triatomines were captured in Afogados da Ingazeira and 1,071 in Serra Talhada. T. brasiliensis predominated among the seven species found, and co-occurrence of R. neglectus and R. nasutus was detected in Afogados da Ingazeira (Figure 2). Most of the triatomines (82.9%) captured were found inside domiciles. Infected bugs were detected in 20 municipalities.



Pioneering studies on the epidemiology of Chagas disease in Pernambuco carried out in the 1950s13 reported ecological aspects of seven species of triatomines: P. megistus, P. lutzi, Triatoma rubrofasciata (De Geer, 1773), T. pseudomaculata, T. sordida, T. brasiliensis, and T. melanocephala. Later, Psammolestes tertius Lent and Jurberg, 1965 and Triatoma infestans were recorded14,21. Triatomine surveys carried out in the 1970s and 1980s recorded three more species in the state: Triatoma tibiamaculata (Pinto, 1926), R. nasutus, and R. neglectus15-16. Dias et al.7 included T. petrocchiae in the list of 13 recognized species of triatomines in the State of Pernambuco. Differently from what was observed by Dias et al.7, our study did not detect these 3 species: Psammolestes tertius, T. tibiamaculata, and T. rubrofasciata. The first species occurs frequently in bird nests of the family Furnariidae22 with a wide distribution in the State of Pernambuco23. However, records of this species in domestic environments are rare, and although the species has already been experimentally infected with T. cruzi, natural infection is not frequent, due to a marked ornithophily. To our knowledge, T. tibiamaculata was recorded in Bonito (GERES IV)16, and the occurrence of T. rubrofasciata has been recorded since 1950s in Recife13.

As observed by Dias et al.7, T. brasiliensis and T. pseudomaculata remain as the main species caught in the State of Pernambuco. In the present study, these insects were often found inside houses, both in semi-arid Caatinga and in the Zona da Mata. Triatoma brasiliensis is considered the main vector of T. cruzi in northeastern Brazil17. In the wild environment, this species is often found under rocks, developing colonies associated with rodents (Kerodon rupestris) with high rates of infection with T. cruzi24. Our results showed that T. brasiliensis has a wide geographical distribution in the State of Pernambuco and it was one of the main species caught between 2006 and 2007. According to Costa et al.25, the State of Pernambuco includes hybrid zones of members of T. brasiliensis complex, and biological, morphological, ecological and genetic studies of populations of this complex should be developed in these areas. Unlike T. brasiliensis, specimens of T. pseudomaculata live under bark of dead trees and bird nests26. The species is most frequent in the peridomiciles, usually feeds on birds27 and has lower rates of infestation, colonization, and infection7. However, Assis et al.28 suggest that the increasing presence of T. pseudomaculata in household environments is related to climate change, deforestation, and expansion of agricultural areas. Moreover, the known ability of dispersal by flight guided by artificial light of T. pseudomaculata and T. brasiliensis29 favors the invasion of households in the northeastern region of Brazil.

The epidemiological importance of P. lutzi is increasing in the State of Pernambuco. According to Lucena13, only seven adult specimens of P. lutzi were recorded among the 15,653 captured triatomines in the state in a survey conducted in the 1950s. The same author indicated a low synanthropic potential of this species, considering its rare presence in the households and even the absence of nymphs. According to Costa et al.17, P. lutzi was the fifth most common species by analyzing the number of triatomine captures in 12 Brazilian states in 1998 (2,900 specimens captured). Moreover, Silveira and Dias30 indicated an increase in the number of P. lutzi specimens captured in Brazil, especially in the State of Pernambuco over the past 30 years. Our results showed that P. lutzi was the third most abundant species in Pernambuco, with a wide geographical distribution and high Trypanosoma infection rate. These results illustrate the increasing epidemiological importance of P. lutzi in recent years. This species , occurs in armadillo burrows in semi-arid Caatinga31 but feeds on different animals in the domestic environment, and has high rates of infection32. In Pernambuco, P. lutzi maintains the risk of T. cruzi transmission to humans due to frequent invasion of infected adults in the houses.

Triatoma melanocephala and P. megistus also had high rates of natural infection; however, they occurred more frequently in the Zona da Mata, especially in Palmares and Limoeiro GERESes, in areas with higher humidity and lower temperature, in agreement with pioneering observations of Lucena13. Specimens of P. megistus live in hollow trees in arboreal habitats26 where they usually feed on marsupials (Didelphis spp.), which are often infected with T. cruzi, thus justifying the high rates of infection. A similar process must occur with T. melanocephala, but the habitats and food sources of this species are poorly known26. Future studies may clarify ecological and biological potential of T. melanocephala in the transmission of T. cruzi.

Triatoma petrocchiae was widespread in Pernambuco, but few specimens were collected. Furthermore, no nymphs were captured in household environments, and the insects examined were not infected by Trypanosoma, suggesting a low vector competence. Although T. sordida is the most captured species in Brazil7,17, in Pernambuco, its occurrence was limited to Ouricuri and Petrolina GERESes. Few specimens of T. sordida were captured in these areas, and none was infected, which indicates a low risk of T. cruzi transmission. This can be explained by its peridomestic behavior, as well as by its marked ornithophily and low rates of natural infection7,17,33.

The low occurrence of T. infestans in Pernambuco detected in the present study is another evidence of the probable elimination of this species in the state due to control campaigns30,34. However, the residual focus (2 specimens in houses from the municipality of Lagoa Grande, Petrolina GERES) indicates the importance of continued entomological surveillance to avoid a re-infestation by this species.

The presence of Rhodnius in the State of Pernambuco has been registered since the 1970s15-16. In the present study, R. neglectus occurred in five GERESes located in semi-arid regions of Sertão and Sertão do São Francisco, while R. nasutus was registered only in GERES Petrolina. No specimen was found infected by Trypanosoma, and no nymphs of these species were captured in domestic environments. Rhodnius neglectus and R. nasutus occur predominantly in the wild environment, inhabiting different palm species in Brazil35.

Rhodnius neglectus has a wide geographical distribution in Brazil, occurring mainly in the Cerrado and transition areas with other biomes36. Rhodnius nasutus predominates in the Caatinga in the northeast region in different tree species, especially palm trees37-38; however, this triatomine can colonize different peridomestic ecotopes as shown by Sarquis et al.39. Despite these differences, the co-occurrence of R. neglectus and R. nasutus in some states in the Northeast Brazil, including Pernambuco, was predicted40. Our results confirm these predictions and reinforce the idea that the identification of these species in these areas must be made with the aid of morphometric41-42 and molecular methods43 due to morphological similarities between these species. Finally, the sporadic occurrence of these species of Rhodnius in Pernambuco should be associated with the presence of palm trees in the peridomiciles.

We conclude that the risk of vector transmission of T. cruzi to humans still exists in the State of Pernambuco, as synanthropic triatomines were captured in 138 of the 185 existing municipalities, and in 113 of them, specimens infected with flagellates morphologically similar to T. cruzi were detected. The results show that of the 10 triatomine species recorded in the domestic environment between 2006 and 2007, Triatoma pseudomaculata, T. brasiliensis, and P. lutzi are the most relevant species for the epidemiological surveillance activities of Chagas disease in the State of Pernambuco after the control of T. infestans. In this scenario, strengthening entomological surveillance is recommended, with the routine of house visitation by health agents, community involvement encouragement with educational strategies, chemical control, and house improvement in the municipalities of the State of Pernambuco, to reduce the chances of developing domiciliary triatomine colonies.



We thank Márcio Vinhaes for reviewing the manuscript. We are also grateful to LACEN for providing the database.



The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.



Secretaria de Vigilância de Saúde (SVS) and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq).



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Address to:
Dra. Maria Beatriz Araújo Silva
Av. Conde da Boa Vista 1.570
Boa Vista, 50640-040 Recife, PE, Brasil
Phone: 55 81 3184-3919

Received in 25/04/2011
Accepted in 17/06/2011

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