Chagas disease vector control relies on prompt, accurate identification of houses infested with triatomine bugs for targeted insecticide spraying. However, most current detection methods are laborious, lack standardization, have substantial operational costs and limited sensitivity, especially when triatomine bug densities are low or highly focal. We evaluated the use of FTA cards or cotton-tipped swabs to develop a low-technology, non-invasive method of detecting environmental DNA (eDNA) from both triatomine bugs and Trypanosoma cruzi for use in household surveillance in eastern Colombia, an endemic region for Chagas disease. Study findings demonstrated that Rhodnius prolixus eDNA, collected on FTA cards, can be detected at temperatures between 21 and 32 °C, when deposited by individual, recently blood-fed nymphs. Additionally, cotton-tipped swabs are a feasible tool for field sampling of both T. cruzi and R. prolixus eDNA in infested households and may be preferable due to their lower cost. eDNA detection should not yet replace current surveillance tools, but instead be evaluated in parallel as a more sensitive, higher-throughput, lower cost alternative. eDNA collection requires virtually no skills or resources in situ and therefore has the potential to be implemented in endemic communities as part of citizen science initiatives to control Chagas disease transmission.
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