, Volume 85, Issue 8-9, pp 625-637

Effects of imidacloprid on adult and larval stages of the flea Ctenocephalides felis after in vivo and in vitro application: a light- and electron-microscopy study

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The effects of imidacloprid (Advantage®) on the larval and adult stages of cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) were studied in vivo and in vitro by means of light and electron microscopy. It was found that:

1. The compound acted rapidly on both larval and adult fleas, killing both stages within 20 min of contact.

2. When applied as a spot-on to the skin of dogs, the compound localized in the water-resistant lipid layer of the skin surface and in the hairs but not in the blood.

3. Thus, the compound was not taken up during sucking of the flea but was absorbed via the thin intersegmental membranes, since larval and adult fleas that had only external contact with imidacloprid-impregnated paper or with shaved hairs from imidacloprid-treated dogs showed reactions similar to those shown by fleas sitting on treated skin.

4. The compound led to a continuous blockage of insect-specific nicotinic-acetylcholine receptors (nAChR), causing tetanic muscle contractions within minutes of exposure. This manifested as intense trembling of the legs and pumping movements of the body. The affected flea stages remained motionless while the nerves and muscles were constantly and irreversibly destroyed due to hyperactivity. The ganglia of the head and thorax and the striated muscles of the flea body and legs were damaged first, whereas the intestinal movements (e.g., visible in larvae) took longer to exhibit damage.

In summary, these studies show that imidacloprid kills larval and adult flea stages rapidly via the same mode of action and thus prevents the development of flea populations in human or animal dwellings.

Received: 15 March 1999 / Accepted: 20 April 1999