Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Lizards and rabbits may increase Chagas infection risk in the Mediterranean-type ecosystem of South America.

Abstract

Studies of host-parasite relationships largely benefit from adopting a multifactorial approach, including the complexity of multi-host systems and habitat features in their analyses. Some host species concentrate most infection and contribute disproportionately to parasite and vector population maintenance, and habitat feature variation creates important heterogeneity in host composition, influencing infection risk and the fate of disease dynamics. Here, we examine how the availability of specific groups of hosts and habitat features relate to vector abundance and infection risk in 18 vector populations along the Mediterranean-type ecosystem of South America, where the kissing bug Mepraia spinolai is the main wild vector of the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiological agent of Chagas disease. For each population, data on vectors, vertebrate host availability, vegetation, precipitation, and temperature were collected and analyzed. Vector abundance was positively related to temperature, total vegetation, and European rabbit availability. Infection risk was positively related to temperature, bromeliad cover, and reptile availability; and negatively to the total domestic mammal availability. The invasive rabbit is suggested as a key species involved in the vector population maintenance. Interestingly, lizard species -a group completely neglected as a potential reservoir-, temperature, and bromeliads were relevant factors accounting for infection risk variation across populations.