Background: Sandflies are vectors of Leishmania, the causative agent of leishmaniasis in mammalian hosts, including humans. The protozoan parasite is transmitted by the sandfly bite during salivation that occurs at the moment of blood feeding. The components of vector saliva include anticlotting and vasodilatory factors that facilitate blood flow and immunomodulatory factors that inhibit wound healing and quell the immune response. Not surprisingly, these factors also play important roles in the establishment of Leishmania infection. To date, the majority of knowledge that has been generated regarding the process of Leishmania infection, including L. infantum chagasi transmission has been gathered by using intradermal or subcutaneous inoculation of purified parasites.
Findings: This study presents the establishment of a transmission model of Leishmania infantum chagasi by the bite of Lutzomyia longipalpis, the vector of American visceral leishmaniasis. The parasites were successfully transmitted by infected sandfly bites to mice and hamsters, indicating that both animals are good experimental models. The L. infantum chagasi dose that was transmitted in each single bite ranged from 10 to 10, 000 parasites, but 75% of the sandflies transmitted less than 300 parasites.
Conclusions: The strategy for initiating infection by sandfly bite of experimental animals facilitates future investigations into the complex and dynamic mechanisms of visceral leishmaniasis. It is important to elucidate the transmission mechanism of vector bites. This model represents a useful tool to study L. infantum chagasi infection transmitted by the vector.