Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is one of the major public health problems in northwest Ethiopia, mainly in Libo-Kemkem and Metema districts, where Phlebotomus orientalis is the most probable vector of the disease. The aim of this study was to determine the physiological age, host preference and vectorial potential of P. orientalis in the highland and lowland foci of the region. Sand flies were collected using CDC light traps between May 2011 and April 2012 in Libo-Kemkem and October 2012 and September 2013 in Metema from household compounds, farm field and mixed forest. Females belonging to Phlebotomus were dissected for physiological age determination and Leishmania detection and isolation. Leishmania infections in sand flies were investigated using molecular methods. Freshly fed Phlebotomus females were tested to identify blood meal sources using PCR-RLB and ELISA. A total of 1149 (936 from Libo-Kemkem and 213 from Metema) blood unfed female P. orientalis were dissected for age determination. The parity rate was 45.6% and 66.2% in Libo-Kemkem and Metema, respectively. None of 798 female P. orientalis dissected (578 from Libo-Kemkem and 220 from Metema) was infected with Leishmania parasites. A total of 347 P. orientalis specimens collected from Libo-Kemkem were processed using PCR, of which 10 (2.8%) specimens were found with DNA of Leishmania spp. Of a total 491 freshly fed female P. orientalis analyzed for blood meal origins by RLB-PCR and ELISA, 57.6% (67.8% from Libo-Kemkem and 49.8% from Metema) were found to contain bovine blood while 4.9% (3.7% from Libo-Kemkem and 5.7% from Metema) were of human blood. In conclusion, the present study showed parity difference between the two populations of P. orientalis and that both populations have strong zoophilic behavior. Based on the presented evidences, the species is strongly implicated as a vector of kala-azar in both areas. Therefore, vector control should be a component of a strategy to manage visceral leishmaniasis in both study areas.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors received funding from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program (grant number OPPGH5336).
© 2018 Aklilu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.