PloS one 2017 12 1212(12) e0189647 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0189647
Chagas disease is a complex vector borne parasitic disease involving blood feeding Triatominae (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) insects, also known as kissing bugs, and the vertebrates they feed on. This disease has tremendous impacts on millions of people and is a global health problem. The etiological agent of Chagas disease, Trypanosoma cruzi (Kinetoplastea: Trypanosomatida: Trypanosomatidae), is deposited on the mammalian host in the insect’s feces during a blood meal, and enters the host’s blood stream through mucous membranes or a break in the skin. Identifying the blood meal sources of triatomine vectors is critical in understanding Chagas disease transmission dynamics, can lead to identification of other vertebrates important in the transmission cycle, and aids management decisions. The latter is particularly important as there is little in the way of effective therapeutics for Chagas disease. Several techniques, mostly DNA-based, are available for blood meal identification. However, further methods are needed, particularly when sample conditions lead to low-quality DNA or to assess the risk of human cross-contamination. We demonstrate a proteomics-based approach, using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to identify host-specific hemoglobin peptides for blood meal identification in mouse blood control samples and apply LC-MS/MS for the first time to Triatoma dimidiata insect vectors, tracing blood sources to species. In contrast to most proteins, hemoglobin, stabilized by iron, is incredibly stable even being preserved through geologic time. We compared blood stored with and without an anticoagulant and examined field-collected insect specimens stored in suboptimal conditions such as at room temperature for long periods of time. To our knowledge, this is the first study using LC-MS/MS on field-collected arthropod disease vectors to identify blood meal composition, and where blood meal identification was confirmed with more traditional DNA-based methods. We also demonstrate the potential of synthetic peptide standards to estimate relative amounts of hemoglobin acquired when insects feed on multiple blood sources. These LC-MS/MS methods can contribute to developing Ecohealth control strategies for Chagas disease transmission and can be applied to other arthropod disease vectors.