Ehodnius neglectus is frequently found in palm trees and bird nests in sylvatic environments. However, adult specimens infected by Trypanosoma cruzi have been invading houses in central Brazil. Analyzing and predicting the geographical distribution of this species may improve vector surveillance strategies for Chagas disease. Ecological niche modeling using the genetic algorithm for rule-set production (GARP) was applied to predict the geographical distribution of R. neglectus from occurrence records and a set of 23 predictor variables (e.g., temperature, precipitation, altitude, and vegetation). Additionally, the geographical distribution of R. neglectus was compared with the geographical distribution of four species of palm trees and two species of birds from the study region. The models were able to predict, with high probability, the occurrence of R. neglectus as a regular (although nonendemic) species of the Cerrado biome in central Brazil. Caatinga, Amazonian savanna, Pantanal, and the Bolivian Chaco appear as areas with lower probabilities of potential occurrence for the species. A great overlap was observed between the distribution of R. neglectus, palm trees (Acrocomia aculeata and Syagrus oleracea), and birds (Phacellodomus ruber and Pseudoseisura cristata). By including new records for R. neglectus (from both sylvatic and domestic environments), our study showed a distribution increase toward the west and northeast areas of Brazil in the “diagonal of open/dry ecoregions of South America”. These results should aid Chagas disease vector surveillance programs, given that household invasion by Rhodnius species maintains the risk of disease transmission and limits control strategies.
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Vol. 46 • No. 4