Chagas Disease Risk in Texas




Sarkar, Sahotra
Strutz, Stavana E.
Frank, David M.
Rivaldi, Chissa–Louise
Sissel, Blake
Sánchez–Cordero, Victor

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Public Library of Science


Background -- Chagas disease, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, remains a serious public health concern in many areas of Latin America, including México. It is also endemic in Texas with an autochthonous canine cycle, abundant vectors (Triatoma species) in many counties, and established domestic and peridomestic cycles which make competent reservoirs available throughout the state. Yet, Chagas disease is not reportable in Texas, blood donor screening is not mandatory, and the serological profiles of human and canine populations remain unknown. The purpose of this analysis was to provide a formal risk assessment, including risk maps, which recommends the removal of these lacunae. Methods and Findings -- The spatial relative risk of the establishment of autochthonous Chagas disease cycles in Texas was assessed using a five–stage analysis. 1. Ecological risk for Chagas disease was established at a fine spatial resolution using a maximum entropy algorithm that takes as input occurrence points of vectors and environmental layers. The analysis was restricted to triatomine vector species for which new data were generated through field collection and through collation of post–1960 museum records in both México and the United States with sufficiently low georeferenced error to be admissible given the spatial resolution of the analysis (1 arc–minute). The new data extended the distribution of vector species to 10 new Texas counties. The models predicted that Triatoma gerstaeckeri has a large region of contiguous suitable habitat in the southern United States and México, T. lecticularia has a diffuse suitable habitat distribution along both coasts of the same region, and T. sanguisuga has a disjoint suitable habitat distribution along the coasts of the United States. The ecological risk is highest in south Texas. 2. Incidence–based relative risk was computed at the county level using the Bayesian Besag–York–Mollié model and post–1960 T. cruzi incidence data. This risk is concentrated in south Texas. 3. The ecological and incidence–based risks were analyzed together in a multi–criteria dominance analysis of all counties and those counties in which there were as yet no reports of parasite incidence. Both analyses picked out counties in south Texas as those at highest risk. 4. As an alternative to the multi–criteria analysis, the ecological and incidence–based risks were compounded in a multiplicative composite risk model. Counties in south Texas emerged as those with the highest risk. 5. Risk as the relative expected exposure rate was computed using a multiplicative model for the composite risk and a scaled population county map for Texas. Counties with highest risk were those in south Texas and a few counties with high human populations in north, east, and central Texas showing that, though Chagas disease risk is concentrated in south Texas, it is not restricted to it. Conclusions -- For all of Texas, Chagas disease should be designated as reportable, as it is in Arizona and Massachusetts. At least for south Texas, lower than N, blood donor screening should be mandatory, and the serological profiles of human and canine populations should be established. It is also recommended that a joint initiative be undertaken by the United States and México to combat Chagas disease in the trans–border region. The methodology developed for this analysis can be easily exported to other geographical and disease contexts in which risk assessment is of potential value.


Sahotra Sarkar is with UT Austin, Stavana E. Strutz is with UT Austin, David M. Frank is with UT Austin, Chissa–Louise Rivaldi is with UT Austin, Blake Sissel is with UT Austin, Victor Sánchez–Cordero is with National Autonomous University of Mexico.

LCSH Subject Headings


Sarkar S, Strutz SE, Frank DM, Rivaldi C, Sissel B, et al. (2010) Chagas Disease Risk in Texas. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 4(10): e836. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000836