First report on natural infection of the Phlebotomus tobbi by Leishmania infantum in northwestern Iran
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is an important health problem in Ardebil, where it borders Azerbaijan in the northwestern Iran. In spite of the presence of both cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis (CL and VL) in northwestern Iran, previous researches have consistently revealed the etiologic agent of VL in the region to be Leishmania infantum. This is the first report of natural infection of Phlebotomus tobbi with L. infantum in Bilesavar district in the northern part of Ardebil province bordering Azerbaijan. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of kDNA, ITS1-rDNA, and CPB genes of the parasite followed by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and gene sequencing analyses revealed presence of L. infantum in six out of 433 tested female sand fly specimens. Although sand flies of P. tobbi were infrequent, two out of 32 (6.25%) females captured in the area were found infected with the parasite. Phlebotomus perfiliewi transcaucasicus, the known vector of VL in the area, were the most dominant species but only four out of 273 (1.47%) tested were infected with L. infantum. This study showed that P. tobbi similar to P. perfiliewi transcaucasicus could play a significant role in the transmission of the L. infantum. However more investigations are needed to demonstrate that L. infantum is the only species circulating in the focus. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.