• Triatoma infestans;
  • Trypanosoma cruzi;
  • Chagas disease;
  • vector control;
  • zooprophylaxis;
  • host-feeding patterns;
  • dispersal;
  • Argentina.

Abstract Effects of the presence of chickens on population density of the bug Triatoma infestans, principal vector of Chagas disease, were investigated by standardized sampling (indoors and peridomestically) from sixty-eight houses of three rural communities in north-west Argentina, during March 1992.

The domiciliary density of T. infestans increased linearly with the percentage of bugs that fed on chickens, as identified by agar double-diffusion tests. Bug density was significantly higher in houses where hens usually nested indoors than in those where they did not, as determined by concurrent direct observations and interviews of householders. Multiple linear regression analysis of domiciliary bug density on (a) the total number of people, dogs and cats per house; (b) the percentage of domiciliary bugs that fed on chickens, or (c) the indoor-brooding habit of hens, showed the two variables (b, c) related to chickens as significant predictors in each regression model. Inclusion both variables representing chickens increased the fit significantly. Addition of other potentially confounding factors (domestic insecticide use, type of roof and walls of house) did not affect the significant variables retained in the best-fitting regression model.

Peridomestic infestation was positively associated with the household number of fowls. Chickens were the main bloodmeal source of peridomestic T.infestans populations. Human-fed bugs were detected in peridomestic sites of sixteen houses, indicating active dispersal of adults and large nymphal instars from bedroom areas.

Exclusion of hens from domiciliary areas and promotion of chicken sheds, of an appropriate design that would not harbour bug populations, should limit the triatomine population growth rate and reduce the risk of infestation.