Diagnostic Projects

Chagas Disease Epidemiology in DHS Working Dogs

Chagas disease is a vector-borne parasitic disease that causes acute and chronic heart disease and death in dogs and humans, and there is no vaccination or available treatment in the U.S. Chagas disease is caused by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite and is transmitted by Triatoma species ‘kissing bugs’ to humans, dogs and a variety of wildlife species that serve as reservoirs of infection. Although the disease is well-studied in Latin America, there is a current lack of awareness in the U.S. which hinders our ability to protect canine and human health. Over 300,000 humans are estimated to be infected in the U.S. with an especially high burden in Texas, leading to economic consequences that exceed $0.9 billion in the U.S. alone.

There is currently a crisis of canine Chagas disease in the southern U.S., in which many dog populations are being impacted, including hunting dogs, military working dogs, border patrol dogs, household pets, and shelter dogs. Texas is a hotspot for infection due to the abundance and richness of Triatoma species kissing bugs and vertebrate hosts that are competent reservoirs for T. cruzi.

This project is conducting an epidemiological investigation of Chagas disease in canines within a network of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) border patrol working dogs populations along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas in order to determine when and where dogs are becoming exposed, and quantify the prevalence of exposure. This information is prerequisite for an effective disease management program. Study aims include elucidating the geographic patterns of canine seropositivity and parasitemia through sampling of working dogs at selected border points; identifying risk factors for infection; determining infection prevalence in kissing bugs collected by dog handlers and border patrol officers from areas frequented by border patrol dogs; and identifying the parasite genotypes that infect dogs and local kissing bugs in relation to those implicated in human disease. Learn more.

Vector–Borne Viruses Repository Materials for Public Health Actionable Assay Validation

This program will establish and maintain an enduring Vector-Borne Viruses repository capable of providing the DHS with a dependable source of biological reference materials, and will be dedicated to the secure storage of select agents, near neighbors, and the environmental samples necessary to perform validation studies for current and future efforts. The repository of strains of Vector-borne viruses (PHAA panels) and nucleic acid samples will be provided to DHS for the purposes of testing and evaluation, and validation studies.  Learn more.