• View in gallery

    Map of French Guiana showing the five study sites: 1) Angoulême, 2) Cayenne, 3) Paracou, 4) Petit-Saut, and 5) Rococoua.

  • View in gallery

    Sand fly diversity for each study sites. Relative densities are given as percentage of total captures at each site.

  • View in gallery

    Stratification by height of the six most abundant sand fly species. Relative densities are given as percentage of the total captures for each species.

  • View in gallery

    Activity period of the six most abundant sand fly species. Relative densities are given as percentage of the total captures for each species.

  • View in gallery

    Resting places of the six most abundant sand fly species. Relative densities are given as percentage of the total captures for each species.

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DIVERSITY AND ECOLOGY OF SAND FLIES (DIPTERA: PSYCHODIDAE: PHLEBOTOMINAE) IN COASTAL FRENCH GUIANA

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  • 1 Laboratoire Hospitalo-Universitaire de Parasitologie et Mycologie Médicale, Equipe EA 3593, Unité de Formation et de Recherche en Médecine de l’Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Cayenne, French Guiana; Laboratoire d’Entomologie Médicale, Institut Pasteur de Guyane Française, Cayenne, French Guiana; Unité Environnement et Prévision de la Santé des Populations, INRA/ENVL, Salon-de-Provence, France

In French Guiana, at least five Leishmania species are known to be sympatically transmitted in sylvatic ecotopes. However, the previous surveys on the phlebotomine sand fly fauna were published 20 years ago. During that period, many ecological changes have occurred. Sand fly collections were conducted with CDC light traps in five stations representing the main ecotopes of French Guiana. A total of 817 sand flies belonging to 2 genera, 18 sub-genera, and 46 different species were identified. The species Lutzomyia umbratilis (16.6% of the collected specimens), Lu. infraspinosa (12.7%), Lu. ininii (8.0%), and Lu. flaviscutellata (6.1%) were the most common species. The stratification by height, activity period, and resting site preferences of the most abundant sand flies were analyzed. Population abundance and diversity were compared for each ecotope. The potential of certain sand fly species in leishmaniasis transmission is discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Previous surveys on the phlebotomine sand fly fauna of French Guiana were published 20 years ago.13 During this period, many ecological changes have occurred in the coastal part of the country (Figure 1). The human population has doubled, partially because of immigration (INSEE, Cayenne, French Guiana), and the main cities (Cayenne, Kourou, and Saint-Laurent) were subsequently enlarged, sometimes by shantytown-like districts. Large areas of primary forest along the main tracks and waterways were colonized and transformed into plantations or exploited for timbering. Later, some of these areas were abandoned and transformed into secondary forest. Undoubtedly, sand fly populations have been impacted by these changes.

In the Cayenne General Hospital and its satellite health centers, 348 cases of cutaneous leishmaniases (CL) were recorded in 2004 (incidence of ~0.2%; unpublished observations). At least five Leishmania species are known to be sympathically transmitted in the sylvatic ecotopes of French Guiana4: Leishmania (Viannia) guyanensis (in > 90% of the cases), L. (Leishmania) amazonensis, L. (V.) braziliensis, L. (V.) naiffi, and L. (V.) lainsoni.5,6 They are mostly responsible for localized cutaneous forms, but disseminated and mucocutaneous clinical presentations are also regularly reported.

Previous surveys by Abonnenc, Leger, and Dedet have reported 81 sand fly species in French Guiana, mainly in the Lutzomyia genus (77 species), but the Brumptomyia (3 species) and Warileya (1 species) genera are also present.2,3,5,79 Only four species, all belonging to the Nyssomyia sub-genus, were found harboring Leishmania promastigotes. Lutzomyia umbratilis was regularly found naturally infected with L. (V.) guyanensis (1.83% of the dissected females10,11), and a single specimen of Lu. flaviscutellata of 254 was found harboring L. (L.) amazonensis.12 Lutzomyia gomezi and Lu. yuilli pajoti were also found infected with unidentified flagellates.

To update ecological and entomological data as well as to estimate the epidemiologic risk factors linked to the vector populations, this study examined the sand fly species distribution in a panel of five different stations that represented the main ecotopes of French Guiana. Infections with flagellates were screened in the field in the mid-gut of all the females caught. The stratification by height, activity period, and main resting sites of the most abundant sand fly species was also analyzed.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Studied areas.

Five stations situated in the coastal part (Figure 1) were selected to represent a panel of the main ecotopes of French Guiana. These consisted of the following: 1) a primary forest growing on white sands called Angoulême (5°20′ N, 53°40′ W), 2) an urban area close to the mangrove in the Patawa District of Cayenne, 3) a pristine terrafirme lowland primary forest in the Paracou research area (5°2′ N, 53°0′ W), 4) a 15- to 30-year-old secondary forest close to the Petit-Saut hydroelectric dam (5°5′ N, 53°5′ W), and 5) a recent fruit plantation situated at the end of the Rococoua dirt track (5°25′ N, 53°20′ W).

Sand fly collections.

Sand fly collections were carried out in May 2003 in Rococoua (one night), in September 2003 in Petit-Saut (two nights), in May 2004 in Angoulême (two nights), in June and July 2004 in Paracou (two nights), and in March and April 2005 in Cayenne (five nights). In each station, captures were effected by means of seven CDC light-traps distributed at the canopy level (one trap between 10 and 20 m), at an intermediate level (two traps between 1 and 10 m), and near the ground (four traps < 1 m). In each station, at least one trap was placed in each of three selected sites at ground level: a tree trunk, a fresh burrow (generally dug by armadillos) and a dead tree stump. A malaise trap was used at all stations except Cayenne. All traps were moved to new sites before dusk each day. Trapping sessions were conducted between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Insects were collected at least twice per night at midnight and 6:00 AM.

Detection and isolation of flagellates.

In the field, female sand flies were placed in a drop of saline water on a micro-scope slide. The head was separated from the thorax with a pair of micro-needles, before drawing out the abdominal and thoracic gut through the apex of the abdomen. The mid-gut was examined for infection with flagellates. Under sterile conditions, positive guts were transferred to 25-cm2 culture flasks of synthetic medium. Culture media consisted of Roswell Park Memorial Institute (RPMI) 1640 (Sigma, St. Louis, MO) supplemented with 20% fetal calf serum, 2 mmol/L l-glutamine, 25 mmol/L HEPES (pH 7.4), 1% non-essential amino acids in MEM, and 50 UI/mL penicillin/streptomycin and incubated at 24°C in the dark.

Species identification.

Sand flies specimens were preserved in 70% ethanol and later processed for mounting between slide and cover glass with the use of potassium hydroxide and the Marc-André modification of Hoyer medium.13 Species identification was made according to the classification adopted by Young and Duncan.14

Diversity parameters.

The total number of species in the sample (S) and the total number of individuals per sample (N) were determined. The sample abundances were expressed as the mean number of individuals per trap per night (M), and the dominances (D) were the number of individuals of the most abundant species (A) divided by N. D represents the weight of the most abundant species in the sample studied.

RESULTS

Species diversity.

Forty-six sand fly species belonging to 2 genera and 18 sub-genera were identified (Table 1). All species have been observed previously in French Guiana. The species diversity was variable in comparing the five ecotopes, from a low diversity of 4 species found in Cayenne to the highest diversity of 32 species found in Angoulême. Overall, Lu. umbratilis (16.6% of the collected specimens, dominance of 0.17), Lu. infraspinosa (12.7%), Lu. ininii (8.0%), and Lu. flaviscutellata (6.1%) were the most common species. The species Lu. flaviscutellata was found in all five ecotopes, and Lu. umbratilis was found in four. Females (56%) were more numerous than males (44%). Only 17 sand flies were collected in the malaise trap.

Sand fly distribution per station.

For an overview of the species distribution at each station, circular diagrams were constructed to show the predominant sub-genera (Figure 2). Sand fly species distributions were clearly different within each ecotope. The two primary forests of Angoulême and Paracou showed the greatest diversity in number of species. Individuals were the most abundant in the Rococoua plantation edges (48.4 individuals/trap/night), whereas sand fly populations were scarce in Cayenne (0.5 individuals/trap/night). Species populations of the Nyssomyia sub-genus varied from 10% in Petit-Saut to 37% in the primary forest of Paracou. The primary forest growing on white sands of Angoulême was characterized by the co-dominance of three sub-genera: 21% of Evandromyia specimens with 94.7% of Lu. infraspinosa, 26% of Nyssomyia specimens with 90.1% of Lu. umbratilis, and 24% of Trichophoromyia sand flies, of which 50% were Lu. ubiquitalis. In Cayenne, the dominance of the Pressatia sub-genus was marked with 66.7% of Lu. choti. In the primary forest of Paracou, Nyssomyia sand flies were the most frequent, among which Lu. umbratilis represented 82.1% of the collected specimens. At Petit-Saut, Evandromyia (35%) and Trichophoromyia (22%) sand flies were the most abundant, Lu. infraspinosa representing 25% of the total captures. In the Rococoua plantation borders, no clear dominance of a single species was reported, but 41% of the sand flies captured belonged to the Psychodopygus sub-genus.

Sand fly stratification.

The six most abundant species were Lu. umbratilis (16.6% of the total collections), Lu. infraspinosa (12.7%), Lu. ininii (8%), Lu. flaviscutellata (6.1%), Lu. trichopyga (5.3%), and Lu. ubiquitalis (5.3%). They were compared according to the position of traps above ground (Figure 3). A majority of each species was caught at ground level. Lu. infraspinosa was found only at ground level. Lu. flaviscutellata, Lu. ininii, and Lu. trichopyga were also reported at the intermediate level (between 1 and 10 m) but not in the canopy. Lu. flaviscutellata seemed equally distributed from 0 to 10 m. Lu. ubiquitalis and Lu. umbratilis were found in all three strata. The latter species represented 60% of the captures above 10 m.

Sand fly activity period.

The six most abundant species were analyzed according to their activity period during the night (Figure 4). All the Trichophoromyia sand flies, in particular Lu. ubiquitalis (97.6%) and Lutzomyia umbratilis, were collected mostly in the early morning hours between 12:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Lu. flaviscutellata and Lu. infraspinosa were present throughout the night.

Sand fly resting sites.

The six most abundant species were analyzed according to their resting sites (Figure 5). Species of the Nyssomyia sub-genus were most commonly associated with tree trunks, whereas Lu. infraspinosa (57%) and Lu. ubiquitalis (63%) occurred near around burrows. Lu. ininii showed no preference, and Lu. trichopyga (60%) was most frequent on stumps.

Sand fly infections.

Among the 458 dissected females, two Lu. fluviatilis from Rococoua and one Lu. antunesi from Petit-Saut were found infected with Leishmania-like flagellates. Unfortunately, cultures failed and molecular tools were unable to identify flagellates from Rococoua. The presence of Leishmania parasites in the Lu. antunesi specimen was confirmed by a genus-specific polymerase chain reaction on the ribosomal RNA gene internal transcribed spacer 1.15 However, DNA material extracted from the culture medium was not sufficient to type it.

DISCUSSION

Obviously, CDC light traps used in most sand fly studies do not capture exhaustively the local fauna but only the light-attracted species.16 Concerning resting sites, using a CDC light trap just above the opening of an isolated burrow, for example, may attract a few sand flies from elsewhere, but most of the captures are likely to originate from this burrow. In general, the CDC trap method provides representative samples of the sand fly fauna in a given area and allows comparisons between sites. Studies of stratification in forested areas have described phlebotomine feeding habits as limited to particular strata. Their preference for mammals whose habitats are restricted to precise levels has contributed to information about the biologic behaviors of several Leishmania pathogenic complexes.

In French Guiana, two distinct cycles of leishmaniases were described in the late 1980s.17 Both occur in the rainforest, but at different altitudinal levels. There is a L. (V.) guyanensis cycle, located in the canopy with the arboreal sand fly Lu. umbratilis as the vector and at least one mammal of the canopy, the two-toed sloth, as a reservoir. The other cycle with L. (L.) amazonensis occurs at ground level with Lu. flaviscutellata as the vector and Proechymys cuvieri as the main reservoir host.4,17 Human infections in French Guiana were proved to result from incursions into the forest.17

The limited populations studied and duration of captures at each station and at specific times of the year places limitations on general inferences when comparing sand fly populations. Generally, however, the results were in congruence with previous observations reported in French Guiana.2,3,5,79 All the species found in this study were observed previously in French Guiana. Lu. umbratilis has been the most common species found here.1821 It was proved to be the most abundant species found associated with tree trunks at all heights. In contrast, some previous studies showed it to be more abundant in the canopy than at ground level all year round. This may be a consequence of seasonal and inter-annual fluctuations.11 Lu. umbratilis was also found in the Rococoua plantation edges; further trapping is necessary to see if it has adapted to this anthropic environment.19,22,23 Distance from the edge does not affect the abundance, richness, and composition of sand fly species in primary forests.24 However, in Brazil, abundance and richness were greater in forest edges facing pastures than those facing secondary forests.24 Similar observations were seen with the Rococoua sand fly fauna.

The other recognized Leishmania vector in French Guiana, Lu. flaviscutellata, was mostly found from ground level up to 10 m in secondary forest ecotopes (Rococoua and Petit-Saut). Attracted to rodents, this adaptable sand fly may play an important role in the L. (L.) amazonensis transmission in areas recently colonized by humans.4 Overall, stratification results were in accordance with other studies of the Amazonian primary forest sand fly fauna.18,21

French Guiana has undergone a high level of environmental degradation over the past 20 years. The human population is rapidly increasing, especially in areas where housing conditions favor the emergence of CL. The establishment of human settlements in the forest has given rise to specific transmission process with intra-domiciliary infection22 occurring when infected sand flies from the neighboring forest are attracted to human housing.23 The contrasts between preserved and modified areas were highlighted by qualitative analyses of the sand fly fauna in each ecotope (Figure 2). The subgenera and species distributions per station varied according to the alterations in vegetation. Angoulême and Paracou are primary moist forests25 located in areas where the environmental degradations are less important or absent. In contrast, Petit-Saut and Rococoua have been exploited by different economic activities (hydro-electric dam and fruits plantations). As previously observed,26 deforestation appeared to be a factor favoring increased densities of some sand fly species–especially those of the Nyssomyia and Trichophoromyia sub-genera—which include some vectors for leishmaniasis in Amazonia.4 In the Cayenne urban ecotope, sand fly abundance and diversity were very low, and the dominance of the Pressatia sub-genus was marked. No infection in sand flies of this genus has been reported.

Leishmania infections have not been reported in Lu. fluviatilis or in other species of the sub-genus Sciopemyia. Some species were found naturally infected by Leishmania, at least in the Amazon region.4,14,27 For example, Lu. antunesi was found harboring Leishmania parasites on the island of Marajo (Pará State, Brazil)28 and was recently incriminated in the L. (V.) lindenbergi transmission in Belem (Pará State, Brazil).29 Unfortunately, the identification of the Leishmania parasite observed in this study was not possible.

Further studies on larger scales and in other stations are required to complete these investigations on vector ecologies in relation with the anthropization of the environment and the epidemiologic data. This particular topic will undoubtedly be crucial in the understanding and further control of leishmanias transmission cycles in a region where environmental man-made changes are more and more important and relentless.

Table 1

Population, abundance, and dominance of sand fly species in the five French Guianan stations studied

AngoulèmeCayenneParacouPetit-SautRococoua
GenusSub-genusSpeciesMFTotalPercentMFTotalPercentMFTotalPercentMFTotalPercentMFTotalPercentTotal MTotal FTotalPercent
* Nmax: number of individuals in the dominant species; results of the dominant species in bold type. M, males; F, females.
Brumtomyiapintoi1120.71120.2
travassosi220.72242.2110.44370.9
LutzomyiaAragaoibarrettoi221.1220.2
brasiliensis220.7220.2
Baityimoucheti110.4110.1
Dreisbachidreisbachi110.41121.912122413.51231.21515303.7
Evandromyiabrachyphalla220.7110.9884.5110.412121.5
infraspinosa19355419.7116.731134424.73252.1545010412.7
monstruosa110.44487.45384.51120.8109192.3
Lutzomyiacarvalhoi110.9110.1
gomezi110.6110.1
Migoneisericea110.9110.1
Nyssomyiaflaviscutellata1672.63320.01676.510105.6518239.5743506.1
umbratilis33316423.420123229.64484.51022313.2676913616.6
Oswaldoirorotaensis110.4332.8110.6110.45160.7
trinidadensis110.4110.1
Pilosapilosa110.4110.1
Pressatiachoti191066.71121.1210121.5
spp.110.6110.1
Psathyromyiaabonnenci1120.7110.62130.4
dendrophyla1121.91120.2
lutziana1120.7110.91230.4
punctigeniculata110.4110.9110.61230.4
scaffi331.1330.4
shannoni331.1554.6881.0
spp.110.9110.1
Psychodopygusamazonensis3141.51121.9110.65270.9
anduzei4151.8110.64260.7
antunesi221.1220.2
aragoi110.4110.1
ayrozai110.4331.2440.5
bispinosa220.7220.2
claustrei3141.5116.72354.673104.1128202.4
corossoniensis110.9110.1
hirsuta hirsuta110.9110.618143213.21915344.2
paraensis110.4110.913173012.41319323.9
squamiventris maripaensis220.7332.83473.913122510.31819374.5
Pyntomyiaspinosa110.6110.1
Sciopemyiafluviatilis110.9441.71450.6
sordelli211134.71232.82352.8214166.6730374.5
Trichophoromyiaininii11114.08142212.42573213.24421658.0
ubiquitalis17163312.0221.9110.6772.92716435.3
spp.662.2110.9770.9
Trychopygomyialongispina110.9110.1
trichopyga79165.8221.9125179.63583.32221435.3
Verrucarumbursiformis10109.310101.2
Viannamyiafurcata220.7110.6330.4
tuberculata110.9110.4220.2
sp of Baduel110.4332.8440.5
No identification23238.4665.6442.21452.1137384.7
Total number of individuals (N)1191552741002131510043651081008593178100110132242100359458817100
Total number of species (S)32428252046
Abundance (individuals/trap/night)270.510.817.848.421.5
Dominance (Nmax/N)*0.230.670.300.250.130.17
Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Map of French Guiana showing the five study sites: 1) Angoulême, 2) Cayenne, 3) Paracou, 4) Petit-Saut, and 5) Rococoua.

Citation: The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Am J Trop Med Hyg 75, 1; 10.4269/ajtmh.2006.75.62

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Sand fly diversity for each study sites. Relative densities are given as percentage of total captures at each site.

Citation: The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Am J Trop Med Hyg 75, 1; 10.4269/ajtmh.2006.75.62

Figure 3.
Figure 3.

Stratification by height of the six most abundant sand fly species. Relative densities are given as percentage of the total captures for each species.

Citation: The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Am J Trop Med Hyg 75, 1; 10.4269/ajtmh.2006.75.62

Figure 4.
Figure 4.

Activity period of the six most abundant sand fly species. Relative densities are given as percentage of the total captures for each species.

Citation: The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Am J Trop Med Hyg 75, 1; 10.4269/ajtmh.2006.75.62

Figure 5.
Figure 5.

Resting places of the six most abundant sand fly species. Relative densities are given as percentage of the total captures for each species.

Citation: The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Am J Trop Med Hyg 75, 1; 10.4269/ajtmh.2006.75.62

*

Address correspondence to Brice Rotureau, Laboratoire Hospitalo-Universitaire de Parasitologie et Mycologie Médicale, Equipe EA 3593, Unité de Formation et de Recherche en Médecine de l’Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Campus St-Denis, BP 718, 97336 Cayenne, French Guiana. E-mail: rotureaubrice@yahoo.fr

Authors’ addresses: Brice Rotureau and Bernard Carme, Laboratoire Hospitalo-Universitaire de Parasitologie et Mycologie Médicale, Equipe EA 3593, Unité de Formation et de Recherche en Médecine de l’Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Cayenne, French Guiana, E-mails: rotureaubrice@yahoo.fr and b.carme@wanadoo.fr. Pascal Gaborit, Jean Issaly, and Romuald Carinci, Laboratoire d’Entomologie Médicale, Institut Pasteur de Guyane Française, Cayenne, French Guiana, E-mail: entomo@pasteur-cayenne.fr. Florence Fouque, Cellule d’Intervention Biologique d’Urgence (CIBU), Institut Pasteur, 25-28, rue du Dr. Roux, 75724 Paris cedex 15, Telephone: 33 (0) 140 613808, Fax: 33 (0) 140 613806, E-mail: flfouque@wanadoo.neuf.fr.

Financial support: This work was supported by the University of the French West Indies and the French Guiana (Cayenne, French Guiana), by the French Contrat Plan Etat-Region N°6325, by the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM, Paris, France), and by the Pasteur Institute of French Guiana (Cayenne, French Guiana).

Acknowledgments: We thank Prof. Jean-Charles Gantier for help in species identification.

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