ABSTRACT: In recent decades, the majority of human plague cases (caused by Yersinia pestis) have been reported from Africa. In northwest Uganda, which has had recent plague outbreaks, cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) have been reported as the most common fleas in the home environment, which is suspected to be a major exposure site for human plague in this country. In the past, C. felis has been viewed as only a nuisance-biting insect because limited laboratory studies suggested it is incapable of transmitting Y. pestis or is an inefficient vector. Our laboratory study shows that C. felis is a competent vector of plague bacteria, but that efficiency is low compared with another flea species collected in the same area: the oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis. On the other hand, despite its low vector efficiency, C. felis is the most common flea in human habitations in a plague-endemic region of Uganda (Arua and Nebbi Districts), and occasionally infests potential rodent reservoirs of Y. pestis such as the roof rat (Rattus rattus) or the Nile rat (Arvicanthis niloticus). Plague control programs in this region should remain focused on reducing rat flea populations, although our findings imply that cat fleas should not be ignored by these programs as they could play a significant role as secondary vectors.
The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene 07/2008; 78(6):949-56. · 2.59 Impact Factor