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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2014

5 - Phlebotomine sand-flies (Phlebotominae)


There are approaching 1000 species of sand-flies in six genera, within the subfamily Phlebotominae of the family Psychodidae. Species in three genera – Phlebotomus, Lutzomyia and Sergentomyia – suck blood from vertebrates; the former two are the more important as they contain disease vectors. The genus Phlebotomus occurs only in the Old World, from southern parts of the northern temperate areas, mainly the Mediterranean region, to central Asia, and in tropical areas, but there are not many species in sub-Saharan Africa or South-east Asia and none in the Pacific area. Most Phlebotomus species inhabit semiarid and savannah areas in preference to forests. Lutzomyia species are found only in the New World, and, by contrast, occur mainly in forested areas of Central and South America.

Sergentomyia species are also confined to the Old World, being found mainly in the Indian subregion, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Although a few species bite people they are not vectors.

Adult flies are often called sand-flies because of their colour. However, this can be confusing because in some parts of the world the small biting midges of the family Ceratopogonidae (Chapter 4) and black-flies (Simuliidae, Chapter 6) are called sand-flies. The medically most important species include Phlebotomus papatasi, P. sergenti, P. argentipes, P. ariasi, P. perniciosus and species in the Lutzomyia longipalpis and L. flaviscutellata complexes. In both the Old and New Worlds sand-flies are vectors of leishmaniasis and viruses responsible for sandfly fever, and in the Andes the bacterium Bartonella bacilliformis, causing bartonellosis (Carrión's disease).

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Further reading
Alexander, B. and Maroli, M. (2003) Control of phlebotomine sandflies. Medical and Veterinary Entomology, 17, 1–18.
Ashford, R. W. (2001) Leishmaniasis. In The Encyclopedia of Arthropod-Transmitted Infections of Man and Domesticated Animals, ed. Service, M. W.. Wallingford: CABI, pp. 269–79.
Guerin, P. J., Olliaro, P., Sundar, al. (2002) Visceral leishmaniasis: current status of control, diagnosis and treatment, and a proposed research and development agenda. Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2, 494–501.
Hide, G., Mottram, J. C., Coombs, G. H. and Holmes, P. H. (1996) Trypanosomiasis and Leishmaniasis: Biology and Control. Wallingford: CAB International.
Killick-Kendrick, R. (1990) Phlebotomine vectors of the leishmaniases: a review. Medical and Veterinary Entomolology, 4, 1–24.
Killick-Kendrick, R. (1999) The biology of phlebotomine sand flies. Clinics in Dermatology, 17, 279–89.
Lainson, R. (1983) The American leishmaniases: some observations on their ecology and epidemiology. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 77, 569–96.
Lainson, R. (1989) Demographic changes and their influence on the epidemiology of the American leishmaniases. In Demography and Vector-Borne Diseases, ed. Service, M. W.. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, pp. 85–106.
Lane, R. P. (1991) The contribution of sand-fly control to leishmaniasis control. Annales de la Société Belge de Médicine Tropicale, 71 (suppl.), 65–74.
Peters, W. and Killick-Kendrick, R. (eds.) (1987) The Leishmaniases in Biology and Medicine. Volume 1: Biology and Epidemiology. Volume 2: Clinical Aspects and Control. London: Academic Press.
Tayeh, A., Jalouk, L. and Al-Khiami, A. M. (1997) Cutaneous leishmaniasis control trial using pyrethroid-impregnated bednets in villages near Aleppo, Syria. WHO/LEISH/97. 41. Geneva: World Health Organization, Division of Control of Tropical Diseases.
Ward, R. D. (1990) Some aspects of the biology of phlebotomine sand-fly vectors. Advances in Disease Vector Research, 6, 91–126. (Reprints and chapters incorrectly dated 1989.)
World Health Organization (1990) Control of the leishmaniases: report of a WHO Expert Committee. World Health Organization Technical Report Series, 793, 1–158.