Sand Fly Genome Project


The sand fly Lutozomyia longipalpis transmits Leishmania infantum that causes the often fatal disease visceral leishmaniasis.  There is strong evidence that Lu. longpiaplpis is undergoing incipient speciation in Brazil with various levels of differentiation between siblings of the complex.  Defining species boundaries and identifying the genetic architecture that leads to reproductive isolation has been a challenge.  To explore these questions within Lu. longipalpis, we re-sequenced the genomes of individual flies collected from five different localities representing different subtypes as well as two outgroup species, Lu. intermedia and Lu. migonei.


An increasingly important and strategic tool to combat leishmaniasis is to interrupt transmission by decreasing vector populations. Reduction in sand fly longevity is critical to interrupt the disease cycle, which relies on a second blood meal.  A limitation to ascertaining if certain control strategies are working is the lack of knowledge concerning sand fly longevity in nature. We are working to establish molecular age markers in sand flies to estimate the age of field caught sand flies and the effect toxic compounds may have on the average age of field populations.

Research Focus

  • Vector-borne Diseases

    Vector-borne disease research is a historic strength of the EIGH. Our researchers study multiple parts of the vector-borne disease lifecycle, such as how the parasites, viruses, and bacteria cause these kinds of diseases, how the vectors spread these diseases, and how to improve prevention methods in tropical and subtropical areas, which have the highest burden of vector-borne illnesses. 

Who’s Involved

EIGH Faculty


  • Sand Fly Genome Consortium
  • Fernando Genta, FIOCRUZ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center
  • Floyd Dowell, USDA

Additional Information