Understanding the factors that determine the emergence of anthroponotic cutaneous leishmaniasis due to Leishmania tropica in Morocco: density and mitochondrial lineage of Phlebotomus sergenti in endemic and free areas of leishmaniasis.
Anthroponotic cutaneous leishmaniasis (ACL) due to Leishmania tropica is spreading to new areas in Morocco. Exposure to the vector, Phlebotomus sergenti, is the only proven risk factor. Our objective was to compare the densities and genetic characteristics of P. sergenti populations in two nearby localities in Morocco, one in an ACL endemic area (El Borouj) and another in a nonendemic area (Sidi Hajjaj). P. sergenti density was significantly higher in the endemic area than in the nonendemic town (p = 0.032). A different predominant P. sergenti mitochondrial lineage was evidenced in each one of the two localities, and for the first time, the P. sergenti lineage acting as a vector of L. tropica has been identified. Bioclimatic differences were detected between both localities. In conclusion we found differences in both the density and the mitochondrial lineage of P. sergenti populations that may explain the different epidemiological situation. Given that the density of P. sergenti in the locality without ACL cases seems sufficient to allow transmission, the main factor that would justify its nonendemic character could be the absence of P. sergenti Lineage IV, which seems to prefer warmer and drier climates.