Species composition of phlebotomine sand flies and bionomics of Phlebotomus orientalis (Diptera: Psychodidae) in an endemic focus of visceral leishmaniasis in Tahtay Adiyabo district, Northern Ethiopia

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a neglected tropical disease, which is strongly associated with poverty. VL caused by Leishmania donovani and transmitted by Phlebotomus orientalis is endemic in various remote areas of north and north-west Ethiopia. The present study was designed to determine the sand fly fauna and bionomics of P. orientalis in the VL endemic focus of Tahtay Adiyabo district. Methods: Sand flies were collected using CDC light traps (n = 602), sticky traps (n = 9,350) and indoor pyrethrum spray catches (n = 578 house visits) from indoor, peri-domestic and agricultural field habitats between May 2011 to April 2012. All sand fly specimens collected were identified to species level and counted. Results: In total, 100,772 sand fly specimens, belonging to 25 sand fly species (nine Phlebotomus and sixteen Sergentomyia) were collected and identified. S. africana and P. orientalis made up 59.1% and 23.5% of the collected sand flies, respectively. As it could be determined from the proportion of collections from outdoor (peri-domestic and agricultural fields) and indoor locations, P. orientalis appears to exhibit increased exophilic behavior. The outdoor to indoor index was 79:1 on m2 of sticky traps. Mean density of P. orientalis caught was significantly higher on horizontally placed sticky traps (mean = 60 ± 14.56/m2/night) than vertically deployed sticky traps (12 ± 3.57/m2/night). The highest abundance of P. orientalis occurred between March and April. Through July to September, there was a sharp decline in abundance of P. orientalis population. Regarding climatic variables, P. orientalis density in light traps and on sticky traps showed a significant positive and negative association with temperature and relative humidity, respectively. However, non-significant negative correlation was observed with rainfall pattern. Conclusions: Overall, P. orientalis was found to be the most abundant Phlebotomus species, showing marked seasonal abundance that mainly peaks during the dry season (March to April). Likewise, the people in the area usually sleep in compounds during these months that potentially expose them to a high risk of peri-domestic VL transmission.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number248
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - 25 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program (grant number OPPGH5336) provided financial support. We gratefully thank our field assistants Haile Gebremariam and Mehari Naizgi and our driver Kibrom Tafere for their help with collection and processing of sand fly specimens. We are also indebted to the people of Tahtay Adiyabo villagers for their kind co-operation.

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


  • Bionomics
  • Phlebotomus orientalis
  • Population dynamics
  • Sand fly fauna
  • Tahtay Adiyabo
  • Visceral leishmaniasis


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