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PAGES: 1068-1069 DOI: 10.1590/S0074-02762012000800018 Short communication
Elimination of Rhodnius prolixus in El Salvador, Central America

Rafael Antonio CedillosI, +; José Eduardo RomeroII; Emi SasagawaIII

IConsejo de Investigaciones Científicas, Universidad de El Salvador, San Salvador, El Salvador
IIUnidad de Vigilancia de Enfermedades Vectorizadas, Ministerio de Salud, San Salvador, El Salvador
IIIAgencia de Cooperación Internacional del Japón, San Salvador, El Salvador


Epidemiological studies performed in El Salvador between 1955-1972 demonstrated a high frequency of two triatomine vectors (Triatoma dimidiata and Rhodnius prolixus). However, the frequency of R. prolixus decreased by 1976 and this species has not been found since 1995. The main factors influencing the elimination of R. prolixus in El Salvador are discussed in this paper.

key words:

Chagas disease has been known in Central America since 1913 when the first human case was reported in El Salvador (Segovia 1913), though El Salvador was the second country in Latin America to report cases of this disease after its discovery by Carlos Chagas in Brazil (Chagas 1909). Rhodnius prolixus (Stål, 1859) was first detected in El Salvador by a Brazilian investigator (Neiva 1915), apparently among specimens sent by Segovia for identification, and this vector most likely originated from Venezuela (Zeledón 1972, 2004, Dujardín et al. 1998, Schofield & Dujardín 1999). The insect is exclusively domestic and is well adapted to thatch and straw dwellings located at elevation below 800 m in El Salvador; thus, eliminating this type of housing can reduce the population size of this insect. In addition, R. prolixus is susceptible to the insecticides used in antimalarial programmes. The progressive reduction in the frequency of R. prolixus relative to the frequency of Triatoma dimidiata, the causative agent of Chagas disease, in El Salvador is shown in Table. The decrease is expressed by the mean number of triatomine insects collected during several studies performed between 1955-2010 (Peñalver et al. 1957, Cedillos et al. 1976, 2002, Romero et al. 2011).



The following are among the reasons for the elimination of R. prolixus in El Salvador: (i) the reduction in the percentage of straw huts, a natural habitat for this vector in this country, from 32.9% in 1971 to 0.5% in 2007, (ii) the use of insecticides for malaria control - houses that had been sprayed with DDT or propoxur up to 20 months before the survey in 1976 were found to be negative for triatomines, in comparison with an infestation rate of 50% reported in houses that were never subjected to insecticide treatment, (iii) the land reform in 1989, which favoured the building of adobe or brick houses in rural areas, and (iv) the remittances sent by Salvadoran immigrants from the United States of America and other countries around the world, estimated at one to three billion dollars annually since 1980, which allowed many families to improve the construction of their houses.

In 2008, Guatemala became the first country in Central America to be certified by the Initiative of the Countries of Central America for Control of Vector-Borne and Transfusional Transmission and Medical Care for Chagas Disease (IPCA) as having interrupted the transmission of Chagas disease by R. prolixus. In 2011, Honduras and Nicaragua were also in the process of eliminating the disease transmission due to this vector (Hashimoto & Schofield 2012). Despite the improvements regarding R. prolixus, the current situation for T. dimidiata, a native species found in all Central American countries in domestic, peridomestic habitats and even urban areas, presents a permanent challenge to the control strategy for Chagas disease in the area. The elimination of T. dimidiata is not feasible, but the reduction of domestic infestation is a viable target (Ponce 2007). In El Salvador, significant progress in controlling T. dimidiata is being achieved through a massive insecticide-spraying program with community participation and health promotion. This program resulted in a reduction in the percentage of infested houses from 60% in 2003 when the control program started to 40% in 2007 and 2.5% in 2011 in the areas under surveillance and control. The number of acute cases of Chagas disease in the country also declined from 117 cases in 2006 to 16 cases in 2010 (Romero et al. 2011).

The elimination of R. prolixus was validated by the XII Meeting of the Central American Initiative of Chagas Disease Control held in San Salvador in June 2010. At this meeting, El Salvador was formally declared free of Chagas disease transmission due to this vector.



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Received 31 March 2012
Accepted 17 July 2012

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