Development of Leishmania braziliensis (Vianna) and Leishmania amazonensis (Lainson and Shaw) in the sand fly Lutzomyia migonei (França) was compared by studying the parasite microhabitats in the alimentary tract, the sequence of parasite morphological changes leading to the metacyclogenesis process, and the parasite transmission to the vertebrate susceptible host. Although the infections by the 2 Leishmania species were initiated with the same number of amastigotes, Le. amazonensis developed a higher population. Infections with Le. braziliensis were typically peripylarian and those with Le. amazonensis suprapylarian but with an unusual invasion of an organ other than the gut, the Malpighian tubules. The life cycle of the 2 parasites within the sand fly vector included the development of all promastigote forms: procyclics, haptomonads, nectomonads, paramastigotes and infective metacyclics, the last of which are uniquely adapted for transmission to the vertebrate hosts. Appearance of metacyclics coincided with the presence of large number of procyclics and haptomonads, low numbers of nectomonads and the appearance of paramastigotes. In both type of infections, there was a high mortality of the promastigotes inside the bloodmeal during digestion but once infection became established metacyclic forms appeared. Although the numbers of metacyclics that developed in sand flies were low for both parasites they were able to transmit the infection to vertebrates, a key event in the vector competence. We suggest that L. migonei is a true biological host and a possible vector of the 2 Leishmania species, which coexist in extensive geographic areas.
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Vol. 37 • No. 1