Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Pulex irritans

Synonym(s): P. irritans, Human flea

Contributor(s): Vetstream Ltd, Sheelagh Lloyd, Anna Meredith, David Scarff, Sarah Pellett

Introduction

Classification

Taxonomy

  • Order: Siphonaptera.
  • Family: Pulicidae.
  • GenusPulex.
  • Speciesirritans.

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Clinical Effects

Epidemiology

Habitat

  • Originally thought to be a guinea pig or peccary parasite, although commonly described as human flea.
  • Also bites many species of mammals and birds: hedgehogs, foxes, dogs, cats, rodents, monkeys in captivity and chickens.

Lifecycle

  • Egg → 3 larval stages → pupa → adult.
  • Adult female lays around 400 eggs, often laying eggs on the body of the host and in the environment, which hatch into larvae in 3-4 days.
  • Larvae feed on organic debris within the environment, will undergo three separate molts and then will form pupae.
  • Adults hatch from the pupae and will seek out mammalian host for blood meal.

Pathological effects

  • Hypersensitivity possible.

Other Host Effects

  • Sucks blood, heavy infestation can lead to anemia.

Control

Control via animal

  • Treat all animals in the house including cats and dogs.

Control via chemotherapies

  • Flea control: adulticide, eg imidacloprid Imidacloprid at 10-16 mg/kg topically.
  • Selamectin Selamectin administered topically at 20 mg/kg. This can be repeated after 7 days but further studies are needed to assess long-term safety of repeated dosing.
  • Lufenuron has been reported as safe and effective in rabbits in heavy infestations and has been used at a dose of 30 mg/kg administered orally every 30 days.
Fipronil is contraindicated in rabbits; can cause neurological disease and death.Do not use flea collars on rabbits.Do not use organophosphate containing products.Use straight permethrin sprays or spot-ons with caution, on rabbits. Permethrin (Xenex, Ultra Spot on, Dechra) is available as a spot-on but it must be noted that toxic effects have been reported in rabbits following topical application at high concentrations of sprays and spot-ons. 

Control via environment

  • Environmental control: use of environment spray best.
  • Carpets should be vacuumed and floor surfaces regularly cleaned.
  • Bedding should be washed in hot water.

Diagnosis

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Buckland P C & Sadler J P (1989) A biogeography of the human flea, Pulex irritans L. (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae). J Biogeography 16 (2), 115-120. 

Other sources of information

  • Oglesbee B (2011) Fleas and Flea Infestation. In: Blackwell’s five-minute veterinary consult: small mammal. 2nd edn. Wiley Blackwell, USA. pp 418-419.
  • Wall R & Shearer D (2001) Veterinary Ectoparasites. In: Biology, Pathology & Control. 2nd edn. pp 156.

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