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Interview with Dr Stephen A. Klotz

Posted Tue, Jun, 07,2016

This author interview is by Dr Stephen A. Klotz, of University of Arizona. Dr Klotz's full paper, Kissing Bugs (Triatoma spp.) Intrusion into Homes: Troublesome Bites and Possible Domiciliation, is available for download in Environmental Health Insights.

Please summarize for readers the content of your article.
This article documents the intrusion of kissing bugs (Triatoma species) into homes in the United States. Intrusion is a temporary condition whereby kissing bugs enter, but do colonize the home (also known as domiciliation, implying that bugs live out their entire life cycle in the home with eggs, nymphs and adults). Following intrusion, homeowners are often bitten by the bugs which in some cases leads to severe allergic reactions. We show that house construction in the US is, in general, not conducive to intrusion or domiciliation. However, we describe one southwestern city in which domiciliation by the largest kissing bug found in the United States (Triatoma recurva) appears to have occurred in older homes.

How did you come to be involved in your area of study?
Numerous victims of kissing bug bites that resulted in allergic reactions visited a medical clinic. In addition, many bite victims were worried about contracting Chagas disease after being bitten. Although Chagas disease is rare in the US kissing bugs do harbor the parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. Because people were so distressed following the bite we formed a group of interested researchers to investigate kissing bug interactions with humans in the US.

What was previously known about the topic of your article?
Home intrusion and domiciliation by kissing bugs from Mexico to South America is common and leads to many people contracting Chagas disease. Homes in which occupants contract Chagas are often without screens, doors, air conditioning and weather stripping. Furthermore, many houses have thatch roofs, wattle and daub walls and dirt foundations. All of these factors are conducive to intrusion and domiciliation by kissing bugs.

How has your work in this area advanced understanding of the topic?
We are trying to tease out the many factors that make Chagas disease rare in the United States as opposed to other countries. Although kissing bugs in the US harbor T. cruzi and bite humans often it is rare for someone to contract Chagas in the US. There are likely many different factors which contribute to these geographic differences and the type of housing is one of them.

What do you regard as being the most important aspect of the results reported in the article?
We document the intrusion of homes by kissing bugs and the absence of bug intrusion in nearby new home construction. In new construction attention was given to sealing for air loss for air conditioning and thus removing portals of insect entry. We describe several instances of homeowners who built bedrooms nearby to their infested homes and the new structures remain free of kissing bugs.

 

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