Genetics and evolution of triatomines: from phylogeny to vector control

Heredity (Edinb). 2012 Mar;108(3):190-202. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2011.71. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


Triatomines are hemipteran bugs acting as vectors of the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. This parasite causes Chagas disease, one of the major parasitic diseases in the Americas. Studies of triatomine genetics and evolution have been particularly useful in the design of rational vector control strategies, and are reviewed here. The phylogeography of several triatomine species is now slowly emerging, and the struggle to reconcile the phenotypic, phylogenetic, ecological and epidemiological species concepts makes for a very dynamic field. Population genetic studies using different markers indicate a wide range of population structures, depending on the triatomine species, ranging from highly fragmented to mobile, interbreeding populations. Triatomines transmit T. cruzi in the context of complex interactions between the insect vectors, their bacterial symbionts and the parasites; however, an integrated view of the significance of these interactions in triatomine biology, evolution and in disease transmission is still lacking. The development of novel genetic markers, together with the ongoing sequencing of the Rhodnius prolixus genome and more integrative studies, will provide key tools to expanding our understanding of these important insect vectors and allow the design of improved vector control strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chagas Disease / parasitology
  • Chagas Disease / transmission
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors / classification
  • Insect Vectors / genetics*
  • Insect Vectors / microbiology
  • Pest Control, Biological
  • Phylogeny
  • Phylogeography
  • Triatominae / classification
  • Triatominae / genetics*
  • Triatominae / microbiology