Rhodnius prolixus are large reddish-brown bugs that can be over an inch long. They have concave wings on the top of their body and a long, narrow head with slender antennae, and blood-sucking mouth parts that can deliver painless bites to sleeping victims, usually mammals and birds. These bites usually occur around the eyes and mouth. The saliva contains anticoagulants allowing them to suck blood for several minutes. They also have symbiotic bacteria in their guts that help them digest the blood.
Infection by the Chagas disease-causing parasitic protozoan occurs when Rhodnius releases protozoans in its feces that it deposits near the site of the bite after a blood meal. By scratching the site of the bite, the victim allows the parasite to enter the host through the wound, or through intact mucosal membranes like those found in the eyes. Darwin may have suffered from Chagas disease as a result of a bite he reported in his diaries from the voyage of the Beagle.
Chagas disease is a major health problem in many Latin American countries. It currently affects 16-18 million people, killing around 20,000 people annually and with some 100 million at risk of acquiring the disease.
Rhodnius prolixus is a large blood-sucking insect that is the vector (carrier) for a small, parasitic protozoan (Trypanosoma cruzi), which causes Chagas disease, an incurable, human, tropical disease incurable that damages the heart and nervous system. Rhodnius is sometimes referred to as the "kissing bug" or "assassin bug". It is found in northern South America and Central America, primarily in domesticated rural areas. It is nocturnal, hiding during the day in cracks and crevices, but becomes active at night.
A sequencing plan has not yet been determined. The genome is currently undergoing small-scale sequencing to help define the sequencing plan.