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Insecta of Medical Importance

Siphonaptera[Fleas]

Dr G Kasonda

Learning Objectives
By the end of this session, students
are expected to be able to:
Describe general characteristics of
fleas
Describe fleas of medical importance
and disease they cause
Describe life cycle of fleas
Describe control measures of fleas

Definition and General


Characteristics of Fleas
Fleas are small wingless insects 2.0-2.5 mm which
feed on the blood of mammals and birds.
Adults feed on their host while larvae live on any
nutritive debris, particularly dried blood and the faeces
of adult fleas
The females ingest more blood than males.
Fleas occur in a wide range of host including
domesticated animals.
They are brown in colour with laterally compressed
bodies.

The males are smaller than the females.


The small chintinous head may bear eyes
and; all have antennae and suctoral mouth
parts.
Each segment of the three-segmented
thorax bears a pair of powerful legs
terminating in
two curved claws.
Fleas are powerful jumpers and can jump
from one host to another.
Copulate frequently to be able to produce
large numbers of eggs.
Life span is about 1year.

Shows Morphological Features of


Flea

Fleas of Medical Importance and


Disease they Cause
The medically important fleas belong to three
general category; Pules, Xenopsylla and Tunga
Examples of species and the diseases they
cause in each genera.
o Pulex Irritans
- It is a nuisance insect of man which
occasionally plays a minor role in the
transmission of diseases.
- It causes discomfort and irritation.

o Tunga penetrans (jigger flea or chigoe)


- The female penetrates into the tissues
of the human host and becomes a jigger.
- A jigger can lead to various physical
discomfort, disability and other medical
conditions (like tetanus, and nerve
damage).
o Xenopsylla Species
-Are responsible for the transmission of
plague and murine typhus.

Life Cycle of Fleas


Fleas have a four-part life cycle
consisting of eggs, larvae, pupae,
and adults.
However, the chigoe flea (Tunga
penetrans) has different life cycle.

Life Cycle of Pulex and


Xenopsylla Species
Note: The shaded numbers in the following
content relate to the numbers in Figure 2: Life
Cycle of Pulex and Xenopsylla Species below.
Eggs are shed by the female in the environment 1
Eggs hatch into larvae2 in about 3-4 days and
feed on organic debris in the environment.
The number of larval instars varies among the
species.

Larvae eventually form pupae 3


The larval and pupal stages take about 3-4
weeks to complete.
Afterwards, adults hatch from pupae 4
and seek out a warm-blooded host for blood
meals.
The primary hosts for Ctenocephalides felis
and Ctenocephalides canis are cats and
dogs,
respectively, although other mammals,
including humans, may be fed upon.

The primary hosts for Xenopsylla


cheopis are rodents, especially rats.
Humans are the primary host for
Pulex irritans

Life Cycle of Pulex and Xenopsylla Species

Life Cycle of Tunga


Penetrans
Note: The shaded numbers in the following content
relate to the numbers in Figure 3: Life
Cycle of Tunga Penetrans below.
Eggs are shed by the gravid female into the
environment 1

Eggs hatch into larvae 2 in about 3-4 days and feed on


organic debris in the environment.

Tunga penetrans has two larval stages before forming


pupae3

The larval and pupal stages take about 3-4 weeks to


complete.
Afterwards, adults hatch from pupae 4 and seek out a warmblooded host for blood meals.

Only mated females burrow into the skin (epidermis) of the


host, where they cause a nodular swelling 5
After penetrating the stratum corneum, they burrow into the
stratum granulosum, with only their posterior ends exposed to
the environment6

Females shed about 100 eggs over a two-week period, after


which they die and are sloughed by the hosts skin.
Secondary bacterial infections are common with tungiasis.

Life Cycle of Tunga


Penetrans

Control Measures of
Fleas
Killing of rodents should be done after killing
fleas, otherwise the fleas will leave the
dead rodents and jump onto man and result in
increased disease transmission.
Fleas may be controlled in the following
methods:
Chemical Control
For the control of rodent fleas xenopsylla cheopis
and Pulex irritans, insecticides can be
applied to the floors of houses, and runways of
rodents.

o The following organochlorides are used: DDT, HCH,


or Dieldrin.
o Also insecticides dust can be blown into rodent
burrows.
o In situations where fleas are resistant to
organochlorides, use organophosphate and
-carbamate insecticides such as:
Diaznon
Fenthion (Baytex)
Malathion
Fentrothion (Sumithion) or
Carbaryl (Sevin)
o House fumigation with insecticides
Use of pesticides

Personal Protection
To protect humans from flea bites,
repellents, e.g. Dimethylpthalate
(DIMP)
Diethyltoluamide (DEET) or benzyl
benzoate emulsion (BBE) may afford
personal
protection.

Key Points
Fleas are small wingless insects 2.0-2.5 mm which feed on
the blood of mammals and birds.
Fleas occur in a wide range of host including domesticated
animals.
The medically important fleas belong to three genera;
Pules, Xenopsylla and Tunga.
Fleas have a four-part life cycle consisting of eggs, larvae,
pupae, and adults.
Fleas could be dangerous for they transmit plague, murrain
fever and cause jiggers.
Control of fleas involves use of chemicals and personal
protection.

Evaluation
What are the general characteristics
of fleas?
What are the two species of fleas
and the disease they cause?
What are the methods of control of
fleas?

TH A N K

Y O U.