Fleas of Small Mammals on Reunion Island: Diversity, Distribution and Epidemiological Consequences

Abstract : Fleas are blood-feeding parasites involved in the transmission of several arthropod borne pathogens. Rat-fleas (Xenopsylla spp.) are known vectors of bubonic plague together with other human diseases receiving less attention such as murine typhus. This latter disease was recorded for the first time in 2011 on Reunion Island where seven human cases were further confirmed within the following year. The outbreak motivated a large survey of fleas, as these insects of major veterinary and medical importance have never been investigated on this oceanic island. We collected fleas on almost 1000 small wild mammals trapped on two altitudinal transects along the humid eastern and dry western sides of the island. Our data reveal the presence of four cosmopolitan flea species and shows an astonishing distribution pattern: 81% of all collected fleas were sampled on the western transect while not a single rat-flea was sampled on the eastern humid side of the island. Interestingly, this distribution did at least in part overlay the map of murine typhus human cases. These data stimulate the need for a diagnosis of pathogens in natural flea populations together with a comprehensive distribution map of fleas, allowing a risk assessment of flea-borne diseases in humans.
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Vanina Guernier, Erwan Lagadec, Gildas Le Minter, Séverine Licciardi, Elsa Balleydier, et al.. Fleas of Small Mammals on Reunion Island: Diversity, Distribution and Epidemiological Consequences. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Public Library of Science, 2014, 8 (9), pp.e3129. 〈10.1371/journal.pntd.0003129〉. 〈hal-01274565〉

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