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Delayed-type hypersensitivity to Phlebotomus papatasi sand fly bite: An adaptive response induced by the fly?

  • Yasmine Belkaid
  • Jesus G. Valenzuela
  • Shaden Kamhawi
  • Edgar Rowton
  • David L. Sacks
  • José M. C. Ribeiro
National Academy of Sciences
Publication Date
Jun 06, 2000
  • Biology
  • Pharmacology


The saliva of bloodsucking arthropods contains a large array of pharmacologically active compounds that assist hematophagy. Arthropod saliva is also responsible for causing uncomfortable allergic responses in its vertebrate hosts. In this article, we investigate whether the sand fly Phlebotomus papatasi, known to produce a strong delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) in humans, could benefit from, and possibly adaptively induce, this response in their vertebrate hosts. In this study, we show that flies fed on humans to completion nearly twice as fast in DTH sites as compared with normal skin sites. DTH sites had significantly larger blood flow as measured by the laser Doppler method. Sand flies feeding at sites in mouse ears that had a DTH response also fed faster than at normal sites. We conclude that in the case of P. papatasi, and possibly other arthropods such as fleas and bed bugs, the strong saliva-induced DTH response may reflect an adaptation of the fly to manipulate host immunity for the insect's own advantage.

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