Improving vector control remains a key goal in reducing the world's burden of infectious diseases. More cost-effective approaches to vector control are urgently needed, particularly because vaccines are unavailable and treatment is prohibitively expensive. The causative agent of American visceral leishmaniasis (AVL), Leishmania chagasi, Cunha and Chagas (Kinetoplastida: Trypanosomatidae), is transmitted between animal and human hosts by blood-feeding female sand flies attracted to mating aggregations formed on or above host animals by male-produced sex pheromones. Our results show the potential of using synthetic pheromones to control populations of Lutzomyia longipalpis Lutz and Neiva (Diptera: Psychodidae), the sand fly vector of one of the world's most important neglected diseases, AVL. We showed that a synthetic pheromone, (±) -9-methylger-macrene-B, produced from a low-cost plant intermediate, attracted females in the laboratory. By formulating dispensers that released this pheromone at a rate similar to that released by aggregating males, we were able to attract flies of both sexes to traps in the field. These dispensers worked equally well when deployed with mechanical light traps and inexpensive sticky traps. If deployed effectively, pheromone-based traps could be used to decrease AVL transmission rates through specific targeting and reduction of L. longipalpis populations. This is the first study to show attraction of a human disease-transmitting insect to a synthetic pheromone in the field, showing the general applicability of this novel approach for developing new tools for use in vector control.
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