Original Paper

Parasitology Research

, Volume 101, Supplement 2, pp 233-242

First online:

Investigations on the life cycle and morphology of Tunga penetrans in Brazil

  • N. NagyAffiliated withInstitute of Zoomorphology, Cell Biology and Parasitology, Heinrich-Heine University
  • , E. AbariAffiliated withInstitute of Zoomorphology, Cell Biology and Parasitology, Heinrich-Heine University
  • , J. D’HaeseAffiliated withInstitute of Zoomorphology, Cell Biology and Parasitology, Heinrich-Heine University
  • , C. CalheirosAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology, Escola de Ciencias Medicas de Alagoas
  • , J. HeukelbachAffiliated withDepartment of Community Health, Medical School, Federal University of Ceará
  • , N. MenckeAffiliated withAnimal Health Division, Bayer HealthCare AG
  • , H. FeldmeierAffiliated withInstitute of Microbiology and Hygiene, Charité-University Medicine Berlin
  • , H. MehlhornAffiliated withInstitute of Zoomorphology, Cell Biology and Parasitology, Heinrich-Heine University Email author 

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Abstract

In the present study, the life cycle of Tunga penetrans was established in Wistar rats in the laboratory, and the morphology of the resulting developmental stages was studied by means of light and scanning electron microscopy. It was seen that the females enter at a nonfertilized stage through the skin of their hosts. Only there the copulation occurs, while females and males brought together in a Petri dish showed no interest in each other. In any way—fertilized or not—the females start about 6 days after penetration and hypertrophy with the ejection of eggs. While fertilized eggs proceed to development, the unfertilized ones remain arrested. The eggs are ovoid and measure about 600 × 320 μm. The larvae hatch from the eggs 1–6 days (mean 3–4) after ejection. Formation of larvae 2 took at least another day, while 4 up to 10 days more were needed until this larva starts pupation (mean 5–7 days). The formation of the adult fleas inside the puparium occurred within 9–15 days (with a maximum hatch at day 12). Adult female fleas having reached the skin of a host start blood sucking within 5 min and prepare to enter the skin. After 24 h, the flea stacked already with two thirds of its body inside the skin. After 40 h, the penetration was completed, and feeding and hypertrophical enlargement started, which was completed on day 6, when eggs became ejected. When studying the morphology of the fleas obtained from different hosts, slight variations were seen, which, however, are not significant for a species separation but may be an indication of the presence of different strains/races or the beginning of such a formation.