Trypanosoma cruzi is a vector-borne protozoan parasite that infects seven million individuals in Central and South America and is the etiologic agent of Chagas disease. There are increasing reports of endemic transmission within the southern US. Trypanosoma cruzi occurs in wild raccoons and dogs in Oklahoma, but its endemicity in the state is poorly studied. We suspected Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) contributed to the endemicity of T. cruzi in Oklahoma due to their annual migration from Central America to their North American maternity roosts. During the summer of 2017, we sampled 361 Mexican free-tailed bats for T. cruzi at three maternity roosts in Oklahoma. We collected wing tissues, extracted T. cruzi DNA, amplified target DNA by PCR using the primers TCZ1/TCZ2, and observed amplification by gel electrophoresis. One juvenile Mexican free-tailed bat was positive for T. cruzi resulting in a 0.27% prevalence in the 361 sampled bats. Our finding of a wild bat naturally infected with T. cruzi in Oklahoma provided insight on the endemicity of T. cruzi in underrepresented endemic areas. The positive sample was sequenced, confirmed as T. cruzi, and uploaded to GenBank (no. MG869732). Future research will focus on monitoring T. cruzi prevalence in wild bats and insect vectors to better understand the enzootic emergence of this neglected tropical parasite.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2