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Annu Rev Entomol. 2002;47:123-41.

Bacterial symbionts of the triatominae and their potential use in control of Chagas disease transmission.

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  • 1Division of Parasitic Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chamblee, Georgia 30341-3724, USA.


Chagas disease is caused by the parasitic protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi and transmitted by insects in the family Reduviidae, subfamily Triatominae, commonly known as kissing bugs. Because these insects feed throughout their entire developmental cycle on vertebrate blood, they harbor populations of symbiotic bacteria in their intestinal track that produce nutrients that are lacking in the insects' limited diet. It is possible to cultivate these bacteria, genetically modify them, and place them back into their insect host, thus generating a paratransgenic insect. This procedure has allowed the expression of antitrypanosomal gene products in the insect gut, thereby resulting in insects that are incapable of transmitting Chagas disease. A method has been developed that would allow introduction and spread of genetically modified symbionts into natural populations of kissing bugs, thus leading potentially to a transgenic intervention tool for use as a part of an integrated vector control approach.

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