Research Article: Amazonian Triatomine Biodiversity and the Transmission of Chagas Disease in French Guiana: In Medio Stat Sanitas

Date Published: February 11, 2016

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Julie Péneau, Anne Nguyen, Alheli Flores-Ferrer, Denis Blanchet, Sébastien Gourbière, Ricardo E. Gürtler.

Abstract: The effects of biodiversity on the transmission of infectious diseases now stand as a cornerstone of many public health policies. The upper Amazonia and Guyana shield are hot-spots of biodiversity that offer genuine opportunities to explore the relationship between the risk of transmission of Chagas disease and the diversity of its triatomine vectors. Over 730 triatomines were light-trapped in four geomorphological landscapes shaping French-Guiana, and we determined their taxonomic status and infection by Trypanosoma cruzi. We used a model selection approach to unravel the spatial and temporal variations in species abundance, diversity and infection. The vector community in French-Guiana is typically made of one key species (Panstrongylus geniculatus) that is more abundant than three secondary species combined (Rhodnius pictipes, Panstrongylus lignarius and Eratyrus mucronatus), and four other species that complete the assemblage. Although the overall abundance of adult triatomines does not vary across French-Guiana, their diversity increases along a coastal-inland gradient. These variations unravelled a non-monotonic relationship between vector biodiversity and the risk of transmission of Chagas disease, so that intermediate biodiversity levels are associated with the lowest risks. We also observed biannual variations in triatomine abundance, representing the first report of a biannual pattern in the risk of Chagas disease transmission. Those variations were highly and negatively correlated with the average monthly rainfall. We discuss the implications of these patterns for the transmission of T. cruzi by assemblages of triatomine species, and for the dual challenge of controlling Amazonian vector communities that are made of both highly diverse and mostly intrusive species.

Partial Text: Tropical and sub-tropical countries from all over the globe are vulnerable to two of the major scientific and socio-economic issues faced by today’s human societies; the loss of biodiversity and the burden of infectious diseases. These issues are linked one with another since a critical consequence of biodiversity loss on human well-being is its potential impact on the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases [1–3]. Zoonotic diseases spilling over from wild species to humans typically involve multiple hosts and/or vectors species, which happen to be the case for many of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) such as Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, Human African Trypanosomiasis, Onchocerciasis or Schistosomiasis. Understanding how changes in the diversity of those communities affect the transmission of human pathogens is then highly topical in the context of global changes [4–6], and is critical to the evaluation of ecosystem services and Eco-Health approaches intended to reduce the burden of NTD and other infectious diseases [7–9].

The upper Amazonia and the Guyana shield form one of the three major tropical wilderness areas on earth, with a low human density (~3 people/km2) and one of the highest rates of population growth in the world (3.8%) [51]. The picture is very similar in French Guiana with very high levels of biodiversity [52], a low population density (~2.9 people/km2) and a strong annual growth rate (3.5%) due to both high fertility and immigration [53]. Such ecological and demographic attributes are likely to explain why these geographical areas have also been spotted as one of the ten hot-spots of Neglected Tropical Diseases [54]. Field studies carried out in French Guiana have suggested that these attributes could indeed influence dengue outbreaks [55], the endemic transmission of malaria [56] or the emergence of Buruli Ulcer [57], and they are identified as important risk factors for the emergence of an endemic situation of Chagas disease in French Guiana [58] and Amazonian Brazil [29]. An obvious research priority in such a context is to identify the spatial and temporal patterns of variations in the abundance and infection rate of species making up the vector community. This is not only necessary to gain a good understanding of the eco-epidemiology of the disease, which is still lacking in French Guiana [59], but also a critical pre-requisite to design the successful surveillance and control program intended by the local health authority [58].



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