Ecological Interactions in the Transmission of the Leishmaniases [and Discussion]

R. Lainson, R. Killick-Kendrick, Ana Flisser

Abstract

Epidemiological studies on the leishmaniases are disclosing a multiplicity of Leishmania species infecting a wide range of wild mammalian hosts, from marsupials to monkeys. In the primitive, silvatic habitat these parasites are transmitted by an equally wide variety of phlebotomine sandfly species (Diptera: Psychodidae: Phlebotominae). Transmission is not haphazard, however, and available evidence points to the existence of environmental barriers that normally limit the different Leishmania species to specific sandfly vectors, transmitting to certain mammalian species, within distinct ecotopes. In this situation, humans may become infected by a variety of leishmanial parasites when intruding into the different enzootics, if the sandfly vectors are anthropophilic. Many are not, however, and their parasites rarely, if ever, make contact with the human host. Natural or man-made ecological changes may result in modification of the epidemiological pattern of leishmaniasis, leading to either a reduction or an increase in the human disease.

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