The epidemiology of the visceral leishmaniasis in the Americas is associated with both a natural and a domestic cycle. The existence of reproductively isolated populations of Lutzomyia longipalpis (Lutz & Neiva), and the scarcity of records of this species from natural habitats in areas where it has been associated with domestic habitats indicated that natural populations could be genetically distinct from domestic ones. Therefore, we compared the genetic structure and estimated the gene flow between L. longipalpis from domestic and peridomestic habitat and from an adjacent undisturbed natural environment along a 1.2-km transect. The analyses were performed on electrophoretic data from eight isozyme loci. The absence of fixed differences in the diagnostic loci Ak and Hk indicated that all specimens belonged to one of the two cryptic species identified in Venezuela. The average number of alleles per locus ranged from 2.0 to 2.9 and the average heterozygosity ranged from 7.8 to 13.4%. No differences were detected in the genetic structure of this species from domestic or peridomestic habitats and those trapped as far as 1.2 km from human dwellings. Nm, estimated from Wright’s Fst, indicated that at least 208 individuals per generation migrated between the peridomestic habitat and a 1.2-km distant point to maintain the observed similarities in allelic frequencies. This high rate of gene flow indicated that this species has high migration rates between domestic and natural environments, and has the potential to transport for Leishmania from natural to domestic environments.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1