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Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2005 Dec;100(8):811-27. Epub 2006 Jan 20.

Lutzomyia longipalpis and the eco-epidemiology of American visceral leishmaniasis, with particular reference to Brazil: a review.

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  • 1Departamento de Parasitologia, Instituto Evandro Chagas, Belém, PA, Brazil.


An historical review is given of American visceral leishmaniasis (AVL), with particular reference to the eco-epidemiology of the disease in Brazil. Following the first records of AVL in this country, in 1934, the sandfly Lutzomyia longipalpis (Lutz and Neiva, 1912) was incriminated as the principal vector. It is now generally accepted, however, that there exist a number of cryptic species under the name of Lu. longipalpis s.l. and that variations in the quantity of the vasodilatory peptide maxadilan in the saliva of flies from different populations of Lu. longipalpis s.l., may account for the variable clinical manifestations of AVL seen in different geographic regions. Distribution of AVL has been shown to extend throughout most of South and Central America, with the domestic dog serving as the principal reservoir of infection for man. However, while one hypothesis suggests that the causative parasite is Leishmania infantum, imported from Europe with the Portuguese and Spanish colonists, the demonstration of a high rate of benign, inapparent infection in foxes in Amazonian Brazil raised an opposing suggestion that the parasite is indigenous to the Americas. Recent reports of similar infections in native marsupials, and possibly rodents, tend to support this view, particularly as Lu. longipalpis is primordially a silvatic sandfly. Although effective control measures in foci of the disease will diminish the number of canine and human infections, the presence of such an enzootic in a variety of native animals will render the total eradication of AVL unlikely.

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