P. papatasi are small, never reaching greater than 2-3 millimeter in length, and have the body covered with hair. Their flight, typical of sand flies, consists of short hops and, for the most part, with a reduced range. The life cycle, from egg to larval stages L1 through L4, pupae and adult takes approximately 3 to 4 weeks. The life span of adults is believed to be approximately 30 days.
Phlebotomus papatasi feed on natural sources of sugar such as plant tissues and honeydew left on plants by aphids. The females also are hematophagous, requiring a blood meal from a vertebrate host to generate eggs. These small flies pack a powerful punch however; the females secrete an array of molecules in their salivary glands that are injected into the vertebrate host during blood feeding, allowing the fly to feed and causing delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactions in humans. Elicitation of this response has been suggested to be an evolutionary advantage for sand flies, by increasing blood-flow at the bite site and, therefore decreasing the amount of time it takes for a sand fly to take a full blood meal. Although advantageous for sand flies, the DTH elicited by repeated exposure to sand fly bites protects against Leishmania infection.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis, also known as "Oriental Sore" or "Baghdad Boil" is caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania major. Parasites are transferred to a suitable host when the female sand fly attempts a blood meal and regurgitates the infectious parasites onto the vertebrate skin. Approximately 1.5 million new cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis occur world-wide each year with an estimate of 12 million people currently infected.
--Courtesy of Mary Ann McDowell
Phlebotomus papatasi (Diptera:Psychodidae), the principal vector for cutaneous leishmaniasis in the Old World, is found throughout Southwest and Central Asia, North Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. The developmental stages can be found in a wide-range of ecotopes with mild temperatures (22-27°C) and relatively high humidity (45-70%). Rodent burrows and animal shelters are excellent breeding sites for these sand flies and adults can sometimes be found in large cracks within walls and dark corners of houses.
A sequencing plan has not yet been determined. DNA is being prepared, and the genome then will undergo small-scale sequencing and heterozyogisity testing to help define the sequencing plan.