Date of Completion


Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors



First Advisor

Dr. Lori Stevens


Chagas disease is a potentially life-threatening blood-borne infection that is transmitted to vertebrate hosts by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (Kinetoplastea: Tripanosomatida), which is carried by Triatominae (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) insect vector species that deposit infected feces when taking a vertebrate blood meal. There is currently no accepted treatment for the chronic stages of Chagas disease, posing significant challenges since clinical manifestations and diagnosis may not occur until decades after initial infection. With the goal of lowering overall human infection rate, it is important to identify the pool of vertebrate blood meal sources available to insect vectors to design targeted ecohealth disease prevention measures.

I used liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry to analyze the blood meal composition of experimentally-fed Triatoma protracta insect vectors immediately after and 8 weeks after a blood meal to evaluate: (1) the passage of the blood meal through progressive body parts at the two time points and (2) the relative efficiency of identifying two blood proteins (albumin and hemoglobin) at the two time points.

Hemoglobin and albumin were detected in all body parts immediately after a blood meal. By 8 weeks post-blood meal, we were still able to detect hemoglobin and albumin in several insect parts, but with lower spectral count quantities. I conclude that elucidating timelines for the degradation of blood proteins under controlled conditions could change the future of blood source analysis by allowing more precise dating of previous blood meals, which is important information for developing ecohealth strategies.