Lutzomyia longipalpis naturally infected by Leishmania (L.) chagasi in Várzea Grande, Mato Grosso State, Brazil, an area of intense transmission of visceral leishmaniasis


Lutzomyia longipalpis naturalmente infectado por Leishmania (L.) chagasi em Várzea Grande, Mato Grosso, Brasil, uma área de transmissão intensa de leishmaniose visceral



Nanci A. MissawaI, II; Érika Monteiro MichalskyII; Consuelo Latorre Fortes-DiasIII; Edelberto Santos DiasII

ISecretaria Estadual de Saúde de Mato Grosso, Cuiabá, Brasil
IICentro de Pesquisas René Rachou, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Belo Horizonte, Brasil
IIIFundação Ezequiel Dias, Belo Horizonte, Brasil





The American visceral leishmaniasis (AVL) is caused by parasites belonging to the genus Leishmania (Trypanosomatidae) and is transmitted to humans through the bite of certain species of infected phlebotomine sand flies. In this study, we investigated the natural infection ratio of Lutzomyia longipalpis, the main vector species of AVL in Brazil, in Várzea Grande, Mato Grosso State. Between July 2004 and June 2006, phlebotomine sand flies were captured in peridomestic areas using CDC light-traps. Four hundred and twenty (420) specimens of Lu. longipalpis were captured. 42 pools, containing 10 specimens of Lu. longipalpis each, were used for genomic DNA extraction and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) amplification. Leishmania spp. DNA was detected in three out of the 42 pools tested, resulting in a minimal infection ratio of 0.71%. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis indicated that Leishmania (L.) chagasi was the infective agent in the positive pools.

Psychodidae; Insect Vectors; Leishmaniasis


A leishmaniose visceral americana (LVA) é causada por parasitos pertencentes ao gênero Leishmania (Trypanosomatidae) e transmitida ao homem através da picada de certas espécies de flebotomíneos, previamente infectados. Neste trabalho, investigamos o índice de infecção natural de Lutzomyia longipalpis, principal vetor da LVA no Brasil, em Várzea Grande, Estado do Mato Grosso. De julho de 2004 a junho de 2006, foram feitas capturas de flebotomíneos em áreas peridomésticas utilizando armadilhas de luz CDC. Foram capturadas 420 espécimens de Lu. longipalpis. Quarenta e dois grupos, formados por 10 espécimens de Lu. longipalpis cada um, foram submetidos à extração de DNA genômico e amplificação por PCR (reação em cadeia da polimerase). DNA de Leishmania spp. foi detectado em 3 dos 42 grupos testados, resultando em um índice mínimo de infecção de 0,71%. A análise de polimorfismos de fragmentos de restrição (RFLP) indicou Leishmania (L.) chagasi como a espécie infectante nos grupos positivos.

Psychodidae; Insetos Vetores; Leishmaniose




American visceral leishmaniasis (AVL) is a public health problem in Brazil. In Várzea Grande, Mato Grosso State, a total of 138 human cases of AVL were reported between 1998 and 2005 1. In 2003, that municipality was considered an area of intense transmission by the Department for Epidemiological Surveillance in the Brazilian Ministry of Health 2.

In this context, we carried out the present study in order to determine the natural ratio of Leishmania-infected Lutzomyia longipalpis and the infecting Leishmania species in that area.


Materials and methods

Várzea Grande (15º32'30"S, 56º17'18"W) is located in the state of Mato Grosso, near to its capital, Cuiabá 3.

Phlebotomine captures were carried out for two years during three consecutive days per month, from July 2004 to June 2006. CDC light traps were mounted in peridomestic areas in five houses across three districts 4 of intense AVL transmission (São Matheus and Eldorado - two residences each - and Parque Sabiá - one residence) totaling five traps per day. The selection of areas and residences was based on previous entomological data 4,5, as well as on the prevalence and incidence of human and canine cases of AVL.

Pools containing ten Lu. longipalpis females each were prepared for DNA isolation 6. In order to confirm the extraction of phlebotomine sand fly DNA, these pool samples were amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in the presence of primers for a constitutive Lutzomyia gene (cacophony) 7,8.

The pool samples were also amplified with specific primers for Leishmania spp. 9. In every PCR reaction set, both negative (no DNA) and positive controls (kDNA purified from Leishmania (V.) braziliensis) were included. Product analysis was performed by PAGE (polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis).

Since each pool sample comprised ten Lu. longipalpis females, the minimal infection rate was calculated as the number of positive pools times 100 divided by the total number of specimens tested 10.

Positive PCR samples were submitted to PCR-RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism), aimed to distinguish among the infecting parasite species according to a published protocol 11.



The efficacy of DNA extraction was confirmed by the presence of a 220bp fragment in every pool of Lu. longipalpis DNA (Figure 1). The amplification product for Leishmania spp. (120bp) was detected in 3 out of 42 pools tested (Figure 2). Minimal infection rate was calculated as 0.71% that corresponds to, at least, three infected females among a total of 420 individuals. RFLP analysis of those Lu. longipalpis pools indicated L. (L.) chagasi as the infecting agent with typical gel profiles: a single 120bp and 120, 80, 60 and 40bp fragments after ApaLI and HaeIII digestion, respectively (Figure 3).




One of the main disadvantages of dissection, besides low sensitivity, is the assumption that all motile flagellates in the sand fly guts are Leishmania parasites. Among molecular methodologies used in the detection of Leishmania, the PCR has been widely reported in the literature for many purposes, including the assessment of infection ratios in both experimentally and naturally infected phlebotomine sand flies. PCR-positive results, however, may be due to the presence of fragments of Leishmania DNA from non-established infections or blood meals from unsusceptible animals, besides live promastigotes. Although neither dissection nor PCR positive results alone can incriminate a given species as an AVL vector, PCR is a particularly effective screening tool in epidemiological surveys due to its high sensitivity and speed. Any positive result may be regarded as additional evidence for the involvement of a certain species in transmission.

Nevertheless, literature data have shown that the infection ratios of Leishmania in phlebotomine vectors are usually low, even in endemic areas. Average values remain below 3%, hardly reaching 10% in a few cases, when assessed either by dissection or PCR-based methods for Leishmania DNA detection (Table 1). Therefore, the minimal infection rate of 0.71% determined for Várzea Grande is in accordance with other literature data for Latin America.

Due to the prevalence of cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) in Mato Grosso, L. (V.) braziliensis and L. (V.) amazonensis, two etiological agents for CL in Latin America, were also included as references in RFLP. However, the infecting Leishmania in the Lu. longipalpis positive pools from Várzea Grande was unequivocally identified as L. (L.) chagasi. Although Lu. longipalpis is the main vector of VL in Brazil, Lu. cruzi was also suggested as such 1,3. The last species was shown to be widely distributed in Mato Grosso 12,13 but it was not captured in Várzea Grande.



N. A. Missawa carried out the field captures, laboratory experiments and literature review, and prepared the first version of the article. E. M. Michalsky participated in the planning and execution of the laboratory experiments, as well as in data interpretation, discussion and critical review of the article. C. L. Fortes-Dias contributed in the analysis and interpretation of the data, literature review, discussion and critical review of the article. E. S. Dias planned and supervised the field captures and laboratory experiments, participated in data interpretation, literature review, discussion and critical review of the manuscript.



To the technicians from the Entomology Laboratory at the Mato Grosso State Health Department and those from the Leishmaniasis Laboratory at the René Rachou Research Center/Fiocruz. To Fiocruz and to the Mato Grosso State Health Department for partial financial support.



1. Mestre GLC, Fontes CJF. A expansão da epidemia da leishmaniose visceral no estado de Mato Grosso, 1998-2005. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 2007; 40:42-8.         

2. Ministério da Saúde. Manual de vigilância e controle da leishmaniose visceral americana. Brasília: Editora do Ministério da Saúde; 2003. (Normas e Manuais Técnicos).         

3. Missawa NA, Dias ES. Phlebotomine sand flies (Diptera: Psychodidae) in the municipality of Várzea Grande: an area of transmission of visceral leishmaniasis in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 2007; 102:913-8.         

4. Hueb M, Camiá RP, Ribeiro LC, Fontes CJF. Calazar em Mato Grosso: foco recente em área periurbana. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 2000; 33:324-5.         

5. Ribeiro ALM, Missawa NA. Spatial distribution of phlebotomine species in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, in the period 1996 to 2001. Entomol Vect 2002; 9:33-4.         

6. Michalsky EM, Fortes-Dias CL, Pimenta PFP, Secundino NF, Dias ES. Assessment of PCR in the detection of Leishmania spp. in experimentally infected individual phlebotomine sand flies (Diptera: Psychodidae: Phlebotominae). Rev Inst Med Trop São Paulo 2002; 44:255-9.         

7. Lins RM, Oliveira SG, Souza NA, de Queiroz RG, Justiniano SC, Ward RD, et al. Molecular evolution of the cacophony IVS6 region in sand flies. Insect Mol Biol 2002; 11:117-22.         

8. De Pita-Pereira D, Alves CR, Souza MB, Brazil RP, Bertho AL, de Figueiredo-Barbosa A, et al. Identification of naturally infected Lutzomyia intermedia and Lutzomyia migonei with Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) revealed by a PCR multiplex non-isotopic hybridization assay. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 2005; 99:905-13.         

9. Degrave W, Fernandez O, Campbell B, Bozza M, Lopes U. Use of molecular probes and PCR for detection and typing of Leishmania: a mini review. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 1994; 89:463-9.         

10. Paiva BR, Secundino NFC, Nascimento JC, Pimenta PF, Galati EA, Andrade Junior HF, et al. Detection and identification of Leishmania species in field-captured phlebotomine sandflies based on mini-exon gene PCR. Acta Trop 2006; 99:252-9.         

11. Volpini AC, Passos VMA, Oliveira GC, Romanha A. PCR-RFLP to identify Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis and L. (Leishmania) amazonensis causing American cutaneous leishmaniasis. Acta Trop 2004; 90:31-7.         

12. Missawa NA, Lima GBM. Distribuição espacial de Lutzomyia longipalpis (Lutz & Neiva, 1912) e Lutzomyia cruzi (Mangabeira, 1938) no Estado de Mato Grosso. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 2006; 39:337-40.         

13. Ribeiro ALM, Missawa NA, Zeilhofer P. Distribution of phlebotomine sandflies (Diptera: Psychodidae) of medical importance in Mato Grosso state, Brazil. Rev Inst Med Trop São Paulo 2007; 49:317-21.         

14. Córdoba-Lanús E, De Grosso ML, Piñero JE, Valladares B, Salomón OD. Natural infection of Lutzomyia neivai with Leishmania spp. in northwestern Argentina. Acta Trop 2006; 98:1-5.         

15. Miranda JC, Reis E, Schrifer A, Goncalves M, Reis MG, Carvalho L. Frequency of infection of Lutzomyia phlebotomines with Leishmania braziliensis in a Brazilian endemic area as assessed by pinpoint capture and polymerase chain reaction. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 2002; 97:185-8.         

16. Oliveira-Pereira YN, Rebelo JMM, Moraes JLP, Pereira SRF. Molecular diagnosis of the natural infection rate due to Leishmania sp. in sand flies (Psychodidae, Lutzomyia) in the Amazon region of Maranhão, Brazil. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 2006; 39:540-3.         

17. Silva EA, Andreotti R, Dias ES, Barros JC, Brazuna JC. Detection of Leishmania DNA in phlebotomines captured in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Exp Parasitol 2008; 119:343-8.         

18. Galati EA, Nunes VL, Dorval ME, Oshiro ET, Cristaldo G, Espíndola MA, et al. Study of the phlebotomines (Diptera: Psychodidae), in area of cutaneous leishmaniasis in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasil. Rev Saúde Pública 1996; 30:115-28.         

19. Souza CM, Pessanha JE, Barata RA, Monteiro EM, Costa DC, Dias ES. Study on phlebotomine sand fly (Diptera: Psychodidae) fauna in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 2004; 99:795-803.         

20. Carvalho GM, Filho JD, Falcão AL, Rocha Lima AC, Gontijo CM. Naturally infected Lutzomyia sand flies in a Leishmania-endemic area of Brazil. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 2008; 8:407-14.         

21. Silva JGD, Werneck GL, Cruz MSP, Costa CHN, Mendonça IL. Infecção natural de Lutzomyia longipalpis por Leishmania sp. em Teresina, Piauí, Brasil. Cad Saúde Pública 2007; 23:1715-20.         

22. Silva OS, Grunewald J. Contribution to the sand fly fauna (Diptera: Phlebotominae) of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil and Leishmania (Viannia) infections. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 1999; 94:579-82.         

23. Santamaría E, Ponce N, Zipa Y, Ferro C. Presence of infected vectors of Leishmania (V.) panamensis within dwellings in two endemic foci in the foothill of the middle Magdalena valley, western Boyacá, Colombia. Biomedica 2006; 26 Suppl 1:82-94.         

24. Flórez M, Martínez JP, Gutiérrez R, Luna KP, Serrano VH, Ferro C, et al. Lutzomyia longipalpis (Diptera: Psychodidae) at a suburban focus of visceral leishmaniasis in the Chicamocha Canyon, Santander, Colombia. Biomedica 2006; 26 Suppl 1:109-20.         

25. Rebollar-Téllez EA, Ramírez-Fraire A, Andrade-Narvaez FJ. A two years study on vectors of cutaneous leishmaniasis. Evidence for sylvatic transmission cycle in the state of Campeche, Mexico. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 1996; 91:555-60.         

26. Jorquera A, González R, Marchán-Marcano E, Oviedo M, Matos M. Multiplex-PCR for detection of natural Leishmania infection in Lutzomyia spp. captured in an endemic region for cutaneous leishmaniasis in state of Sucre, Venezuela. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 2005; 100:45-8.         

27. Rodriguez N, Aguilar CM, Barrios MA, Barker DC. Detection of Leishmania braziliensis in naturally infected individual sandflies by the polymerase chain reaction. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 1999; 93:47-9.         



E. S. Dias
Centro de Pesquisas René Rachou
Fundação Oswaldo Cruz
Av. Augusto de Lima 1715
Belo Horizonte, MG 30190-002, Brasil

Submitted on 11/Mar/2010
Final version resubmitted on 08/Jun/2010
Approved on14/Jun/2010

Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública Sergio Arouca, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil