Flight dispersal of the triatomine bug species Rhodnius pallescens Barber, the principal vector of Chagas disease in Panama, is an important mechanism for spreading Trypanosoma cruzi, causative agent of Chagas disease. This study measures R. pallescens flight performance using a tethered flight mill both when uninfected, and when infected with T. cruzi or Trypanosoma rangeli. Forty-four out of the 48 (91.7%) insects initiated flight across all treatments, and trypanosome infection did not significantly impact flight initiation. Insects from all treatments flew a cumulative distance ranging from 0.5 to 5 km before fatiguing. The median cumulative distance flown before insect fatigue was higher in T. cruzi- and T. rangeli-infected insects than in control insects; however, this difference was not statistically significant. There was a positive relationship between parasite load ingested and time until flight initiation in T. rangeli-infected bugs, and T. rangeli- and T. cruzi-infected females flew significantly faster than males at different time points. These novel findings allow for a better understanding of R. pallescens dispersal ability and peridomestic management strategies for the prevention of Chagas disease in Panama.
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Vol. 51 • No. 5