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Domestic dogs and cats as sources of Trypanosoma cruzi infection in rural northwestern Argentina

  • R. E. GÜRTLER (a1), M. C. CECERE (a1), M. A. LAURICELLA (a2), M. V. CARDINAL (a1), U. KITRON (a3) and J. E. COHEN (a4)...

The reservoir capacity of domestic cats and dogs for Trypanosoma cruzi infection and the host-feeding patterns of domestic Triatoma infestans were assessed longitudinally in 2 infested rural villages in north-western Argentina. A total of 86 dogs and 38 cats was repeatedly examined for T. cruzi infection by serology and/or xenodiagnosis. The composite prevalence of infection in dogs (60%), but not in cats, increased significantly with age and with the domiciliary density of infected T. infestans. Dogs and cats had similarly high forces of infection, prevalence of infectious hosts (41–42%), and infectiousness to bugs at a wide range of infected bug densities. The infectiousness to bugs of seropositive dogs declined significantly with increasing dog age and was highly aggregated. Individual dog infectiousness to bugs was significantly autocorrelated over time. Domestic T. infestans fed on dogs showed higher infection prevalence (49%) than those fed on cats (39%), humans (38%) or chickens (29%) among 1085 bugs examined. The basic reproduction number of T. cruzi in dogs was at least 8·2. Both cats and dogs are epidemiologically important sources of infection for bugs and householders, dogs nearly 3 times more than cats.

Corresponding author
Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, FCEN-UBA, Ciudad Universitaria, 1428 Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tel: +54 11 4576 3318. Fax: +54 11 4576 3384. E-mail:
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