Serbia was a country endemic for leishmaniasis with rich and abundant sand fly fauna during the middle of the 20th century. After 1968, the disease was considered as eradicated, and as a consequence, all research on vectors and pathogens was neglected. The recent detection of Leishmania infantum in sand flies and confirmed cases of leishmaniasis in humans and dogs indicated the risk of re-emergence in Serbia. Also, for millions of refugees/immigrants, Serbia is a transit route between East-Mediterranean and Middle-East countries, and Central/North Europe, and it is under constant risk of vector and disease introduction. Primary objectives of this research were to determine which sand fly species are present around transit routes, whether they include vectors of the Leishmania spp. moreover, is/are Leishmania spp. present in the vectors. Surveys were conducted at 55 locations, organised in four clusters, which covered main immigrant routes and shelters/camps as well as tourist/trade transit routes. In total, 367 sand fly specimens were collected. Nine species were identified: Phlebotomus papatasi, P. perfiliewi, P. tobbi, P. neglectus, P. sergenti, P. alexandri, P. simici, P. balcanicus and P. mascittii. Detection of P. alexandri represents the first record in Serbia. The diversity of sand fly species increased while the number of collected specimens per night decreased during the period of research neglection. Phlebotomus neglectus, a proven vector of L. infantum, was a predominant species in all surveyed clusters, and in 56,52% of locations, it was the only species present. Although all detected species are regarded either as proven or suspected vectors of Leishmania spp., screening of females for Leishmania presence resulted negative. Our study provides insight into the significant changes of sand fly fauna in Serbia during the end of XX and beginning of XXI century. Diverse sand fly fauna in Serbia suggests that the establishment of new leishmaniasis foci is possible.
Keywords: Immigration routes; Leishmania; MALDI-TOF; Phlebotomus; Sand fly; Serbia.
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