Host choice of Phlebotomus orientalis (Diptera: Psychodidae) in animal baited experiments: A field study in Tahtay Adiyabo district, northern Ethiopia

Araya Gebresilassie*, Solomon Yared, Essayas Aklilu, Oscar David Kirstein, Aviad Moncaz, Habte Tekie, Meshesha Balkew, Alon Warburg, Asrat Hailu, Teshome Gebre-Michael

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Host choice and feeding success of sand fly vectors of visceral leishmaniasis (VL) are important factors in understanding the epidemiology and for developing efficient control strategies. The aim of the present study was to determine the host preference of Phlebotomus orientalis in the VL focus of Tahtay Adiyabo district, northern Ethiopia. Methods: Two separate experiments were conducted testing attraction of P. orientalis to humans, domestic animals, and small wild animals. The host choice of P. orientalis and other sand fly species was assessed using tent traps baited with seven different animals (human, cow, sheep, goat, donkey, dog and chicken) and a blank control. Baited traps were rotated every night in a Latin square design for two consecutive full rounds totaling 16 trap-nights. The second set of experiments tested attraction to small wild animals including; ground squirrel (Xerus rutilus), hare (Lepus sp.), gerbil (Tatera robusta) and spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus). Animals were caged in standard rodent traps or cylindrical wire-mesh cages. The bait animals were placed in agricultural field and the attracted sand flies were collected using unlit CDC traps for 10 trapping nights. Sand fly specimens collected from each of the experiments were identified to species level and counted. Results: Significant difference (P < 0.05) was observed in the attraction and feeding rate of P. orientalis to different baits. In the first experiment, cow-baited tent traps attracted the highest mean number of P. orientalis (mean = 510 flies). The engorgement rate of P. orientalis on donkey was the highest followed by cow, and much lower on goat, sheep, dog and chicken. In the case of smaller wild animals, more numbers of P. orientalis females were attracted to squirrels followed by hares, gerbils and the spiny rat. However, the engorgement rates for P. orientalis in the smaller animals were very low (1.08%) compared with larger domestic animals (30.53%). Conclusion: The tendency of female P. orientalis to engorge in large numbers on certain species of domestic as well as wild animals strongly indicated that the species is primarily zoophilic in its host preference with feeding habits that may vary depending on the availability of hosts.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number190
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - 31 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program (grant number OPPGH5336). We gratefully thank our field assistants Haile Gebremariam and Bisrat Tadesse, and our driver Kibrom Tafere for their help with collection and processing of sand fly specimens.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Gebresilassie et al.; licensee BioMed Central.


  • Host attractiveness
  • Phlebotomus orientalis
  • Visceral leishmaniasis
  • Zoophilic sand flies


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