Chagas disease is a parasitical infection caused by the protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi occurring in the American tropics. Typically transmitted through insect bites by so-called kissing bugs (subfamily Triatominae), Chagas is usually associated with mild symptoms, however, chronic infections can lead to cardiac, digestive or neurological alterations.
Little is known about the transmission patterns of the parasite, and in this study, researchers used GBIF-mediated occurrences of potential mammalian host species combined with records of Triatominae species to generate a complex interference network and predict interactions from co-occurrences.
A third of the mammals occur in sites where Triatominae species are also present, and ten host species are potentially associated with three or more Triatominae bugs. Two species, Baiomys musculus and Liomys pictus, are highlighted as potentially associated with five Triatominae species.
The researcher test the predictive power of the network by confirming the presence of verified Chagas hosts. The additional co-occurrences provide testable hypotheses for new vector-host interactions to be addressed.