Bats, Trypanosomes, and Triatomines in Ecuador: New Insights into the Diversity, Transmission, and Origins of Trypanosoma cruzi and Chagas Disease
The generalist parasite Trypanosoma cruzi has two phylogenetic lineages associated almost exclusively with bats—Trypanosoma cruzi Tcbat and the subspecies T. c. marinkellei. We present new information on the genetic variation, geographic distribution, host associations, and potential vectors of these lineages. We conducted field surveys of bats and triatomines in southern Ecuador, a country endemic for Chagas disease, and screened for trypanosomes by microscopy and PCR. We identified parasites at species and genotype levels through phylogenetic approaches based on 18S ribosomal RNA (18S rRNA) and cytochrome b (cytb) genes and conducted a comparison of nucleotide diversity of the cytb gene. We document for the first time T. cruzi Tcbat and T. c. marinkellei in Ecuador, expanding their distribution in South America to the western side of the Andes. In addition, we found the triatomines Cavernicola pilosa and Triatoma dispar sharing shelters with bats. The comparisons of nucleotide diversity revealed a higher diversity for T. c. marinkellei than any of the T. c. cruzi genotypes associated with Chagas disease. Findings from this study increased both the number of host species and known geographical ranges of both parasites and suggest potential vectors for these two trypanosomes associated with bats in rural areas of southern Ecuador. The higher nucleotide diversity of T. c. marinkellei supports a long evolutionary relationship between T. cruzi and bats, implying that bats are the original hosts of this important parasite.
This work was originally published in PLoS ONE, available at doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139999.