Behavioral implications of Trypanosoma cruzi Chagas infection in Rhodnius prolixus Stål were observed. Feeding and defecation behaviors of infected versus uninfected insects were assessed on an artificial membrane-feeding system and on live guinea pigs. Based on a defecation index, fifth instars were the most efficient vectors, followed by adult females, fourth instars, and adult males. Bugs fasted for longer periods (5–6 mo) took smaller blood meals but defecated significantly earlier than bugs fasted for shorter periods (2–3 mo). Multiple blood feeding, degree of fasting, life stage, T. cruzi infection, and gender affected the vector potential of R. prolixus. Our data indicate that T. cruzi and R. prolixus have not coevolved to facilitate the transmission of T. cruzi, which suggests that this parasite-host relationship may be relatively recent.
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Vol. 39 • No. 1