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Int J Parasitol. 2003 Aug;33(9):919-31.

Lutzomyia vectors for cutaneous leishmaniasis in Southern Brazil: ecological niche models, predicted geographic distributions, and climate change effects.

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  • 1Natural History Museum, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA.


Geographic and ecological distributions of three Lutzomyia sand flies that are cutaneous leishmaniasis vectors in South America were analysed using ecological niche modelling. This new tool provides a large-scale perspective on species' geographic distributions, ecological and historical factors determining them, and their potential for change with expected environmental changes. As a first step, the ability of this technique to predict geographic distributions of the three species was tested statistically using two subsampling techniques: a random-selection technique that simulates 50% data density, and a quadrant-based technique that challenges the method to predict into broad unsampled regions. Predictivity under both test schemes was highly statistically significant. Visualisation of ecological niches provided insights into the ecological basis for distributional differences among species. Projections of potential geographic distributions across scenarios of global climate change suggested that only Lutzomyia whitmani is likely to be experiencing dramatic improvements in conditions in south-eastern Brazil, where cutaneous leishmaniasis appears to be re-emerging; Lutzomyia intermedia and Lutzomyia migonei may be seeing more subtle improvements in climatic conditions, but the implications are not straightforward. More generally, this technique offers the possibility of new views into the distributional ecology of disease, vector, and reservoir species.

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