The family Phlebotomidae is largely tropical with a mainly Palaearctic element, the genus Phlebotomus, which includes some tropical mammalophilic species. The Palaearctic region, which is the main temperate area of the Old World, is dominated by the genus Phlebotomus.

In the Old World sand flies tend to be more numerous in relatively dry zones. In the New World they favour the forests which cover much of the tropics. Thus they occur in warmer regions of temperate countries, e.g. Mediterranean countries, the Middle East, Africa, India and China, and in tropical countries. Of medical importance there, Lutzomyia species are especially common in forested areas of Central and South America.

Old World

Phlebotomus is dominant in the Palaearctic region and extents into the other three zoogeographical regions of the Old World. In the former Soviet Union sand flies occur in the Mediterranean and Central Asian subzones of the Palaearctic region. They also have been reported from an area north of Paris and the Isle of Jersey. Savanna, steppe and desert are typical habitats in the Old World.
Of the genus Phlebotomus, the sand fly Ph. (Transphlebotomus) mascittii Grassi, 1908 appears to be the most northerly species (Rioux et al., 1969).
Lewis (1982) describes the distribution of Phlebotomus northward to just above latitude 49° N. In 1999 supposedly for the first time a sand fly, namely Ph. mascittii, has been detected in Germany (Naucke and Pesson, 2000).

Distribution of phlebotomines as vectors of Leishmania in the Old World

Five criteria of incrimination have been stated by R. Killick-Kendrick, including corresponding epidemiological data, anthropophilic behaviour of the sandfly, promastigote isolation from the sandfly, complete life cycle of the parasite in the vector and experimental transmission by the bite of the infected species.
Nine species of closely related sand flies classified in the genus Phlebotomus, subgenus Larrousius, are vectors of Mediterranean CanL. Of the causative organism, L. infantum, sufficient numbers of typed isolates have been cultured from five of the nine Phlebotomus (Larrousius) species (Ph. perniciosus; Ph. ariasi, Ph. perfiliewi, Ph. neglectus, Ph. langeroni), so their role as vectors considered as proven (Killick-Kendrick, 1990a; 1999b). The behaviour and ability of Ph. tobbi to support the growth of L. infantum in experimental conditions (Rioux et al, 1998) is taken as evidence for the vectorial role of this species. The remaining three species Ph. longicuspis, Ph. kandelakii and Ph. syriacus are assumed to be probable vectors on circumstantial evidence, namely their distribution, biting habits and taxonomic position (Killick-Kendrick and Killick-Kendrick, 1999).

Vector species

Countries around the Mediterranean basin

Ph. perniciosus*

Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya

Ph. ariasi*

Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia

Ph. perfiliewi spp.*

Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Yugoslavia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia

Ph. longcuspis

Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Spain

Ph. neglectus*

Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania

Ph. tobbi

Italy (Sicily), Cyprus, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Syria

Ph. kandelakii

Lebanon, Turkey

Ph. syriacus

Israel, Jordan, Syria

Ph. langeroni*

Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya?, Egypt, Spain

Table: Distribution of the proven and probable phlebotomine vectors, (subgenus Larroussius) of CanL around the Mediterranean basin (from maps of Lewis, 1982) (Killick-Kendrick and Killick-Kendrick, 1999) [* = proven vector, see Killick-Kendrick, 1990a; 1999b]

For detailed distribution of Leishmania transmission by sand flies see under Leishmaniosis.

In general, Ph. ariasi (Rioux et al., 1984) and Ph. perniciosus (Izri et al., 1990) were demonstrated as vectors of visceral leishmaniosis and cutaneous leishmaniosis due to L. infantum, both from Portugal to Italy and from Morocco to Tunisia (Rispail et al., 2002). Ph. perfiliewi is proven vector in Algeria (Izri and Belazzoug, 1993). It is scarce in the South East of France (Izri et al., 1994) and more abundant on the Adriatic coast in Italy (Corradetti, 1960).

New World

Lutzomyia is the main genus in the neotropical region, mainly living in the extensive forests of that part of the world.

Distribution of phlebotomines as vectors of Leishmania in the New World

Soon there will be general information on this subject.



  • Corradetti, A.: I focolai italiani di kala azar e il problema della leishmaniosi nel Sud Europa. Parassitologia 2, 95-98, 1960
  • Izri, M.A., and S. Belazzoug: Phlebotomus (Larroussius) perfiliewi naturally infected with dermotropic Leishmania infantum at Tenes, Algeria. Trans. R. Soc. Trop. Med. Hyg 87, 399, 1993
  • Izri, M.A., S. Belazzoug, Y. Boudjebla, J. Dereure, F. Pratlong, A. Delalbre-Belmonte and J.A. Rioux: Leishmania infantum MON-1 isolé de Phlebotomus perniciosus, en Kabylie (Algérie). Ann. Parasitol. Hum. Comp. 65, 151-152, 1990
  • Izri, M.A., P. Marty, P. Fauran, Y. Le Fichoux and J.J. Rousset: Phlebotomus perfiliewi Parrot, 1930 (Diptera: Psychodidae) dans le Sud-Est de le France. Parasite 1, 286, 1994
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  • Killick-Kendrick, R.: The biology and control of phlebotomine sand flies. Clin. Dermatol. 17, 279-289, 1999b
  • Killick-Kendrick, R., and M. Killick-Kendrick: Biology of sand fly vectors of Mediterranean canine leishmaniasis. In: Killick-Kendrick, R. (ed.): Canine leishmaniasis: an update. Proc. Int. Can. Leishm. Forum, Barcelona, Spain, 1999, Intervet Int., Boxmeer, The Netherlands, pp 26-31, 1999
  • Lewis, D.J.: A taxonomic review of the genus Phlebotomus (Diptera, Psychodidae). Bull. Br. Mus. Nat. His. 45, 121-209, 1982
  • Naucke, T.J., and B. Pesson: Presence of Phlebotomus (Transphlebotomus) mascittii Grassi, 1908 (Diptera: Psychodidae) in Germany. Parasitol. Res. 86, 335-336, 2000
  • Rispail, P., D. Jacques and D Jarry: Risk zones of human leishmaniasis in the western Mediterranean Basin. Correlations between vector sand flies, bioclimatology and physiology. Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz 97, 477-483, 2002
  • Rioux, J.A., D.M. Jarry, G. Lanotte, R. Maazoun and R. Killick-Kendrick: Ecologie des leishmanioses dans le sud de la France. 18. Identification enzymatique de Leishmania infantum Nicolle, 1908, isolé de Phlebotomus ariasi Tonnoir, 1921 spontanément infesté en Cévennes. Ann. Parasitol. Hum. Comp. 59, 331-333, 1984
  • Rioux, J.-A., N. Léger, N. Haddad, M. Gramiccia, L. Jalouk, J. Dereure, A. Al-Khiami and P. Desjeux: Infestation naturelle de Phlebotomus tobbi (Diptera, Psychodidae) par Leishmania donovani (Kinetoplastida, Trypanosomatidae), en Syrie. Parassitologia 40 (Suppl.), 148, 1998

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