Background: The Leishmania developmental life cycle within its sand fly vector occurs exclusively in the lumen of the insect’s digestive tract in the presence of symbiotic bacteria. The composition of the gut microbiota and the factors that influence its composition are currently poorly understood. A set of factors, including the host and its environment, may influence this composition. It has been demonstrated that the insect gut microbiota influences the development of several human pathogens, such as Plasmodium falciparum. For sand flies and Leishmania, understanding the interactions between the parasite and the microbial environment of the vector midgut can provide new tools to control Leishmania transmission. Methodology/Principal findings: The midguts of female Phlebotomus perniciosus from laboratory colonies or from the field were collected during the months of July, September and October 2011 and dissected. The midguts were analyzed by culture-dependent and culture-independent methods. A total of 441 and 115 cultivable isolates were assigned to 30 and 11 phylotypes from field-collected and colonized P. perniciosus, respectively. Analysis of monthly variations in microbiota composition shows a species diversity decline in October, which is to the end of the Leishmania infantum transmission period. In parallel, a compilation and a meta-analysis of all available data concerning the microbiota of two Psychodidae genera, namely Phlebotomus and Lutzomyia, was performed and compared to P. perniciosus, data obtained herein. This integrated analysis did not reveal any substantial divergences between Old and New world sand flies with regards to the midgut bacterial phyla and genera diversity. But clearly, most bacterial species (>76%) are sparsely distributed between Phlebotominae species. Conclusion/Significance: Our results pinpoint the need for a more exhaustive understanding of the bacterial richness and abundance at the species level in Phlebotominae sand flies in order to capture the role of midgut bacteria during Leishmania development and transmission. The occurrence of Bacillus subtilis in P. perniciosus and at least two other sand fly species studied so far suggests that this bacterial species is a potential candidate for paratransgenic or biolological approaches for the control of sand fly populations in order to prevent Leishmania transmission.
Fraihi, W., Fares, W., Perrin, P., Dorkeld, F., Sereno, D., Barhoumi, W., … Zhioua, E. (2017). An integrated overview of the midgut bacterial flora composition of Phlebotomus perniciosus, a vector of zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis in the Western Mediterranean Basin. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 11(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0005484