My Sand fly Research

Leishmaniasis is an important disease and the parasite is transmitted by blood-sucking sand flies with approximately two million new cases every year and one tenth of the world’s population at risk of infection.

My science research is based at the School of Health and Medicine at Lancaster University.  My work has been funded variously by the Wellcome Trust, BBSRC, the Leverhulme Trust  and Brazilian Government.

Image of sand flies. Copyright Dr Bruce Alexander

Leishmania are  parasites transmitted by the bite of the small midge–like  phlebotomine sand fly.

One of the main ways to control leishmaniasis is to control the insect or disrupt the insect part of the parasite life cycle (pdf of cycle)  but our  knowledge of the sand fly in relation to development of the parasite is inadequate for developing new targets for control.

drawing depicts a male (left) and female sand fly. Drawn by a colleague the late Dr Bruce Alexander.


One of our main projects is to identify the genes  involved in the interaction of the sand fly and the parasite that it transmits and this will greatly extend our knowledge  of the interaction between insect  and Leishmania  and provide a sound basis  for developing new control systems for this disease. I am involved in field based research examining sand fly biology and the spread of the disease in urban environments in for example in Brazil.

We have been working towards sequencing two species of sandflies in the sandfly genome sequencing consortium. My sand fly colony has been used for the Lutzomyia longipalpis genome sequencing project. The genome data is accessible  at Vectorbase.

If you are searching for  general information about Leishmania there are a couple of good sites which might give you the information that you want. There is a WHO site on Leishmania and a leishmaniasis disease information site provided by TDR (a research and training programme for tropical diseases).

Please note that we are unable to advise you about issues relating to your personal health and leishmaniasis.

We research many aspects of sand flies and their Leishmania parasites in both the laboratory and field work, we are always interested to discuss potential collaborative projects. Get in touch with me if you want to chat about collaborations or perhaps PhD studies on Leishmania and sand flies.


2 thoughts on “My Sand fly Research

  1. Hello
    My name is Kevin Banks and i live in the French Pyrenees in an old renovated barn 700 metres from sea level. I have noticed these Plebotomine sand flies in the house for a number of years but could never identify them, until now. With the fly being a vector of Leishmania i thought if i could contact you, then you could give advice on how to help me get rid of them. First i will explain some things about them. They are small 2-3mm with mosquito type leg, wins that are roundish at the ends and have an iridescence. They are silent and fleet of wing! The bite and the swelling occur fairly soon, if not instantly afterwards and can bite multiple times in short periods. The other thing about them is that we have a sizeable bat colony in our roof and the faeces has fallen through into our bedroom on occasion. Are the two connected? Is it a case of getting rid (which we will be doing in any case) of the bats and then dealing with the Plebotomines?
    Any advice on this would be great. I’ve been identifying birds, plants and insects since i was a young lad and this insect has taken me 5/6yrs to, hopefully, id.
    Thanks again,
    Kevin Banks

    1. Hi
      Sorry for the late reply! If they hold their wings in an inverted V shape above the body then they are likely phlebotomines. The bat droppings are probably not important. If you get rid of the bats the flies will probably still appear. The instant swelling of your bites suggests that you have been bitten quite a bit, I think the swelling then will go down quite quickly in that case. If you have a dog then they are potential reservoir of the disease. There are insecticidal dog collars.

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