Skip navigation

Onchocerciasis transmission in Ghana: the human blood index of sibling species of the Simulium damnosum complex

Onchocerciasis transmission in Ghana: the human blood index of sibling species of the Simulium damnosum complex

Lamberton, Poppy H. L., Cheke, Robert A. ORCID: 0000-0002-7437-1934, Walker, Martin, Winskill, Peter, Crainey, J. Lee, Boakye, Daniel A., Osei-Atweneboana, Mike Y., Tirados, Iñaki, Wilson, Michael D., Tetteh-Kumah, Anthony, Otoo, Sampson, Post, Rory J. and Basañez, María-Gloria (2016) Onchocerciasis transmission in Ghana: the human blood index of sibling species of the Simulium damnosum complex. Parasites & Vectors, 9 (1). ISSN 1756-3305 (Print), 1756-3305 (Online) (doi:

PDF (Publisher's PDF - Open Access)
15679 CHEKE_Simulium_Damnosum_Complex_2016.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview


Background: Vector-biting behaviour is important for vector-borne disease (VBD) epidemiology. The proportion of blood meals taken on humans (the human blood index, HBI), is a component of the biting rate per vector on humans in VBD transmission models. Humans are the definitive host of Onchocerca volvulus, but the simuliid vectors feed on a range of animals and HBI is a key indicator of the potential for human onchocerciasis transmission. Ghana has a diversity of Simulium damnosum complex members, which are likely to vary in their HBIs, an important consideration for parameterization of onchocerciasis control and elimination models.

Methods: Host-seeking and ovipositing S. damnosum (sensu lato) (s.l.) were collected from seven villages in four Ghanaian regions. Taxa were morphologically and molecularly identified. Blood meals from individually stored blackfly abdomens were used for DNA profiling, to identify previous host choice. Household, domestic animal, wild mammal and bird surveys were performed to estimate the density and diversity of potential blood hosts of blackflies.

Results: A total of 11,107 abdomens of simuliid females (which would have obtained blood meal(s) previously) were tested, with blood meals successfully amplified in 3,772 (34 %). A single-host species was identified in 2,857 (75.7 %) of the blood meals, of which 2,162 (75.7 %) were human. Simulium soubrense Beffa form, S. squamosum C and S. sanctipauli Pra form were the most anthropophagic (HBI = 0.92, 0.86 and 0.70, respectively); S. squamosum E, S. yahense and S. damnosum (sensu stricto) (s.s.)/S. sirbanum were the most zoophagic (HBI = 0.44, 0.53 and 0.63, respectively). The degree of anthropophagy decreased (but not statistically significantly) with increasing ratio of non-human/human blood hosts. Vector to human ratios ranged from 139 to 1,198 blackflies/person.

Conclusions: DNA profiling can successfully identify blood meals from host-seeking and ovipositing blackflies. Host choice varies according to sibling species, season and capture site/method. There was no evidence that HBI is vector and/or host density dependent. Transmission breakpoints will vary among locations due to differing cytospecies compositions and vector abundances.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2016 The Author(s). Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Human blood index; Host choice, Simulium damnosum (sensu lato); Host-seeking vectors; Ovipositing vectors; Onchocerca volvulus; Vector abundance
Subjects: Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR355 Virology
S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Last Modified: 28 May 2018 01:39

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics