PUBLICATIONS — Peer-reviewed research

Our lab regularly publishes our research findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals. "Peer-review" means that other scientists and experts have critically reviewed our methods, findings, and conclusions and found them to be well-done and trustworthy. Publishing in peer-reviewed journals also ensures that our research findings will be permanently available to future generations interested in understanding our lab's work. Here, we have compiled a list of our current publications, including a brief summary, as well as the link to the article.

Bejcek JR, Curtis-Robles R, Riley M, Brundage A, Hamer SA, Hamer GL. 2018. Clear resin casting of arthropods of medical importance for use in educational and outreach activities. Journal of Insect Science. 18(2): 34: 1-4.

We developed a protocol specific to embedding medically-important insects in resin, creating safe-to-handle and well-preserved examples for both classroom teaching and public health outreach education.

Curtis-Robles R, Hamer SA, Lane S, Levy MZ, Hamer GL. 2018. Bionomics and spatial distribution of triatomine vectors of Trypanosoma cruzi in Texas, USA. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 98(1): 113-121.

We analyzed data from over 3200 kissing bugs submitted by citizens from 2012-2016. Adult kissing bugs were most frequently collected during the summer months (May-September). Different kissing bug species were more likely to be found in different areas of Texas than others.

Curtis-Robles R, Auckland LD, Snowden KF, Hamer GL, Hamer SA. 2018. Analysis of over 1500 triatomine vectors from the southern US for Trypanosoma cruzi infection and discrete typing units. Infection, Genetics and Evolution. 58: 171-180.

We tested over 1500 kissing bugs, and we found 54% were infected with Trypanosoma cruzi. Infection prevalence varied by kissing bug species. We also determined the T. cruzi strain types in infected bugs: we found TcI and TcIV. Different kissing bug species were associated with different strain types.

Meyers A, Meinders M, Hamer SA. 2017. Widespread Trypanosoma cruzi infection in government working dogs along the Texas-Mexico border: Discordant serology, parasite genotyping and associated vectors. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 11(8): e0005819.

We sampled 528 working dogs along the Texas-Mexico border, and found that 7.4-18.9% of dogs were positive for T. cruzi antibodies and a small proportion (0.6%) also had parasite circulating in the blood. We collected two species of kissing bugs from the canine environments and used molecular approaches to determine that 45% were positive for T. cruzi and the majority had recently fed on canines.

Curtis-Robles R, Zecca IB, Roman-Cruz V, Carbajal ES, Auckland LD, Flores I, Millard AV, Hamer SA. 2017. Trypanosoma cruzi (agent of Chagas disease) in sympatric human and dog populations in colonias of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 96(4): 805-814.

We sampled people and dogs living in medically-underserved colonias along the Texas-Mexico border. We found 1.3% of people and 19.6-31.6% of dogs were infected with the Chagas parasite. Kissing bugs collected by residents of the colonias were found to have fed on dog, human, and raccoon blood; one bug was infected with the Chagas parasite.

Hodo CL, Bertolini NR, Bernal JC, VandeBerg JL, Hamer SA. 2017. Lack of Trypanosoma cruzi infection in urban roof rats (Rattus rattus) at a Texas facility housing naturally infected nonhuman primates. Journal of the Association for Laboratory Animal Science. 56(1): 57-62

We sampled roof rats from a non-human primate facility in Texas. None of the rats we tested were positive for the Chagas parasite, suggesting that this species of rat is likely not a source of infection at this facility.

Bryan LA, Hamer SA, Shaw S, Curtis-Robles R, Auckland LD, Hodo CL, Chaffin K, Rech RR. 2016. Chagas disease in a Texas horse with neurologic deficits. 216: 13-17.

We were involved in a study of a 10-year old Texas horse with neurologic disease, which found the Chagas parasite in the spinal cord of the horse. This was the first case study of Chagas disease in a horse in the US.

Comeaux J, Curtis-Robles R, Lewis BC, Cummings KJ, Mesenbrink BT, Leland BR, Bodenchuk MJ, Hamer SA. 2016. Survey of feral swine (Sus scrofa) infection with the agent of Chagas disease (Trypanosoma cruzi) in Texas, 2013-2014. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 52(3): 627-630.

Feral hogs are an abundant and wide-spread nuisance species across the southern US. We tested feral hogs from across Texas and found evidence of the Chagas parasite in 6% of the hogs.

Curtis-Robles R, Lewis BC, Hamer SA. 2016. High Trypanosoma cruzi infection prevalence associated with minimal cardiac pathology among wild carnivores in central Texas. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife. 5(2): 117-123.

We tested bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and raccoons for evidence of the Chagas parasite. We found 12-14% of bobcats, coyotes, and foxes were infected, and 70% of raccoons with infected. Raccoons may be very important to the maintenance of the Chagas parasite in Texas.

Hodo CL, Goodwin CC, Mayes BC, Mariscal JA, Waldrup KA, Hamer SA. 2016. Trypanosome species, including Trypanosoma cruzi, in sylvatic and peridomestic bats of Texas, USA. Acta Tropica 164: 259-266.

We tested insectivorous bats from across Texas and found 0.17% of bats were infected with the Chagas parasite. This finding is the first report of the Chagas parasite in a bat in the US.

Curtis-Robles R, Wozniak EJ, Auckland LD, Hamer GL, Hamer SA. 2015. Combining public health education and disease ecology research: Using citizen science to assess Chagas disease entomological risk in Texas. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 9(12): e0004235.

From May 2013 to December 2014, a total of 1,980 kissing bugs were submitted to our program, mostly collected from dog kennels and outdoor patios. These bugs allow insight into a cross-section of bugs of high epidemiological and veterinary relevance. Citizen submissions of kissing bugs peaked in June-July and showed 63.3% infection prevalence with the Chagas parasite.

Tenney, TD, Curtis-Robles R, Snowden KF, Hamer SA. 2014. Shelter dogs as sentinels for Trypanosoma cruzi transmission across Texas, USA. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 20(8): 1323-1326.

We tested high-risk shelter dogs from seven shelters across Texas. We found that 8.8% of dogs had evidence of exposure to the Chagas disease parasite, showing that dogs from diverse areas of Texas are at risk.

SA Hamer, R Curtis-Robles, GL Hamer. 2018. Contributions of citizen scientists to arthropod vector data in the age of digital epidemiology. Current Opinion in Insect Science. 28: 98-104.

This publication reviewed our and other citizen science programs. The contributions of citizen scientists have enabled many large research projects that would have not been possible with only a small team of scientists.

GL Hamer, JR Bejcek, EA Valdez, R Curtis-Robles, SA Hamer. 2018. A pilot radio telemetry field study of triatomine vectors (Hempitera: Reduviidae) of the Chagas disease parasite. Journal of Medical Entomology. 55(6): 1380-1385.

We used tiny radio transmitters to track the movements of kissing bugs. This very small study revealed one bug that returned to the same location over multiple nights. Learning more about kissing bug movement is important to developing ways to control/eliminate kissing bugs in an area.

R Curtis-Robles, AC Meyers, LD Auckland, IB Zecca, R Skiles, SA Hamer. 2018. Parasitic interactions among Trypanosoma cruzi, triatomine vectors, domestic animals, and wildlife in Big Bend National Park along the Texas-Mexico border. Acta Tropica. 188: 225-233.

We tested kissing bugs from in and around Big Bend National Park. Adult kissing bugs were most frequently collected during April-June, and 23% were infected. We found that bugs had fed on a variety of blood sources, including dogs, feral hog, ringtail, woodrat, human, and birds (including elf owl). Some dogs in the Park had evidence of infection with T. cruzi.

CL Hodo, JY Rodriguez, R Curtis-Robles, IB Zecca, KF Snowden, KJ Cummings, SA Hamer. 2018. Repeated cross-sectional study of Trypanosoma cruzi in Texas shelter dogs, in the context of Dirofilaria immitis and tick-borne pathogen prevalence. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 33: 18-166.

We tested over 600 dogs from shelter across Texas for infection with T. cruzi and other vector-borne diseases. 18% of dogs had evidence of T. cruzi infection, which was similar to the percent of dogs infected with heartworm (16%), and was much higher than percent infected with tick-borne diseases (0.2%-6.9%)

Hodo CL, Hamer SA. 2017. Towards an ecological framework for assessing reservoirs of vector-borne pathogens: wildlife reservoirs of Trypanosoma cruzi across the southern United States. ILAR Journal. 58(3): 379-392.

This publication reviewed 77 previous publications to summarize knowledge of T. cruzi infection in wildlife across the southern US. Raccoons, woodrats, and opossums have been the most frequently studied wildlife species. Raccoons and skunks may be important to spreading T. cruzi. This review is important to determining which wildlife species play the biggest role in T. cruzi maintenance and potential for spill-over to humans and domestic animals.

Curtis-Robles R, Auckland LD, Hodo CL, Snowden KF, Nabity MB, Hamer SA. 2018. Trypanosoma cruzi discrete typing unit TcIV implicated in a case of acute disseminated canine Chagas disease. Veterinary Parasitology: Regional Studies and Reports. 12: 85-88.

We tested samples from a dog infected with Trypanosoma cruzi that had unusual signs of infection. Laboratory testing showed strain type TcIV in the samples. This study is important to better understanding of the effects of different strains of T. cruzi on infected dogs.

Wormington JD, Gillum C, Meyers AC, Hamer GL, Hamer SA. 2018. Daily activity patterns of movement and refuge use in Triatoma gerstaeckeri and Rhodnius prolixus (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), vectors of the Chagas disease parasite. Acta Tropica. 18:301-306.

We set up cameras to take photos of the movements of kissing bugs in our kissing bug colony. The kissing bug species most commonly found in Texas was more active at night and early morning than during the day. This study is important to better understanding how kissing bugs act and possible ways to control them.

Hodo CL, Wilkerson GK, Birkner EC, Gray SB, Hamer SA. 2018. Trypanosoma cruzi transmission among captive nonhuman primates, wildlife, and vectors. EcoHealth. 15:426-436.

We tracked Trypanosoma cruzi infection in rhesus macaques and tested wildlife and kissing bugs found at and near a non-human primate research facility in Texas. We found infection in opossums, raccoons, and skunks, but not in rats or mice. Two different T. cruzi strain types were found in macaques; one strain type was found more commonly in opossums while the other was found more commonly in raccoons. This research is important to understanding T. cruzi infection in macaques (a model for human infection), as well as ways to protect animals and people from infection.

Beatty NL, Behrens-Bradley N, Love M, McCants F, Smith S, Schmidt JO, Hamer SA, Dorn PL, Ahmad N, Klotz SA. 2019. Rapid detection of human blood in triatomines (kissing bugs) utilizing a lateral flow immunochromatographic assay - A pilot study. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 114: e190047.

This research tested a blood-detection test on kissing bug samples to find out if kissing bugs had fed on people. The test worked for bugs known to have fed on human blood and also detected human blood in kissing bugs caught in California, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana. This research is important to developing faster, cheaper ways of finding out whether a kissing bug fed on a person.

Meyers AC, Hamer SA, Matthews D, Gordon SG, Saunders AB. 2019. Risk factors and select cardiac characteristics associated with Trypanosoma cruzi infection in naturally infected dogs presenting to a teaching hospital in Texas. J Vet Intern Med. 33:1695-1706.

This study reviewed the medical records of 375 dogs, some infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, and some not infected. The highest infection was found in non-sporting and toy breeds of dogs. Dogs were more likely to be infected if they lived in a house with an infected dog or were the littermate of an infected dog. Infected dogs were more likely to have a particular kind of heart condition (ventricular arrhythmias). This research is important to helping raise awareness of Chagas disease in dogs and situations in which to consider testing dogs for Trypanosoma cruzi infection.

Hodo CL, Edwards EEW, Bañuelos RM, Wozniak EJ, Hamer SA. 2020. Discrete typing unit associations and pathology of Trypanosoma cruzi infection in coyotes (Canis latrans) and raccoons (Procyon lotor) of Texas, USA. J of Wildlife Dis. 56(1): 34-144.

This study sampled coyotes and raccoons from central and south Texas. Raccoons were more commonly infected with Trypanosoma cruzi than coyotes. Racoons had very little damage visible in the heart tissue and were infected with one strain of Trypanosoma cruzi. Coyotes had inflamed heart tissue and were infected with a different strain of Trypanosoma cruzi. This study is important to determining which wildlife species play the biggest role in T. cruzi maintenance and potential for spill-over to humans and domestic animals.

Zecca IB, Hodo CL, Slack S, Auckland L, Rodgers S, Killets KC, Saunders AB, Hamer SA. Prevalence of Trypanosoma cruzi infection and associated histologic findings in domestic cats (Felis catus). Vet Parasitol. In press.

This study sampled cats in southern Texas to test for infection with Trypanosoma cruzi. Some cats were found to be infected with Trypanosoma cruzi; only one strain type was found. This study is important because very few studies of Trypanosoma cruzi infection in cats in the US have been done before.


Our lab has tested over 1,500 kissing bugs for the Chagas disease parasite. Here is the breakdown of how many of each species (kind) of kissing bug we have found infected with the Chagas disease parasite.

Species of kissing bug Where in Texas this species is mainly found Number of bugs that were tested Number of bugs that were infected Percent of bugs that were infected
Triatoma gerstaeckeri South and west Texas 897 568 63%
Triatoma sanguisuga Central and northern Texas 315 150 48%
Triatoma indictiva Central Texas 67 32 48%
Triatoma lecticularia Central Texas 66 44 67%
Triatoma rubida West Texas 64 9 14%
Triatoma protracta West Texas 19 2 11%

Note: when very few bugs are tested (like for Triatoma rubida), the calculation for the percent infected is less precise. The actual percent infected may be higher or lower.

See full publication here.



Journalists and other media personnel, please keep in mind these key messages as you design kissing bug-related stories. Please help us distribute accurate information about kissing bugs to counter inaccurate information about kissing bugs on the internet!

  • Kissing bugs in Texas are most active in the summer months, from May through September.
  • The Chagas disease germ is not spread via the bite of the kissing bug; the germ is spread through the kissing bug feces.
  • Kissing bugs and the Chagas disease parasite have been found throughout the southern United State for hundreds of years, and probably much longer
  • Dogs can be infected with the Chagas parasite, but dogs cannot infect people.
  • People can learn more about Chagas disease from trusted sources, like the CDC and MedlinePlus

Funded under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012345 with the University of North Texas Health Science Center - Gibson D. Lewis Library, and awarded by the DHHS, NIH, National Library of Medicine. Funded in part by Texas Ecological Laboratory program.

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