Sand fly-Leishmania


sandfly_mouthpiece_10_10_14_3_Maximum intensity projection

Female sandfly image taken using a light sheet microscope

The Leishmania parasite has a life cycle that alternates between an intracellular amastigote form found in mammalian macrophages, and a number of flagellated promastigote forms, which are confined to the gut of the Phlebotomine sandfly.


Leishmania parasites in the midgut of the sand fly











transmission electron micrograph shows the Leishmania promastigotes adjacent to the microvillar surface in the midgut region of the sand fly.

There are 4 critical phases of development of the parasite in the insect vector:

1) Transformation of amastigotes to promastigote forms and rapid growth of the parasite during blood meal digestion. 

2) Migration out from the digested blood meal encased in the peritrophic matrix. 

3) Binding of the parasite to the midgut epithelium and subsequent anterior migration of the parasites. 

4) Transformation to the mammalian-infective form of the parasite (metacyclic promastigotes) and transfer during a subsequent feed.

We are currently workng on this aspect of leishmania interactions with sand flies and have uncovered exciting research showing that the sand fly is capable of killing the Leishmania inside its gut if the immune system is activated. This work may provide clues for future new control methods aimed at disrupting Leishmania transmission by sand flies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s