• Leishmania major;
  • Phlebotomus papatasi;
  • microsatellites;
  • population structure;
  • sandflies

Abstract Multi-locus microsatellite typing (MLMT) has been employed to infer the population structure of Phlebotomus papatasi (Scopoli) (Diptera: Psychodidae) sandflies and assign individuals to populations. Phlebotomus papatasi sandflies were collected from 35 sites in 15 countries. A total of 188 P. papatasi individuals were typed using five microsatellite loci, resulting in 113 different genotypes. Unique microsatellite signatures were observed for some of the populations analysed. Comparable results were obtained when the data were analysed with Bayesian model and distance-based methods. Bayesian statistic-based analyses split the dataset into two distinct genetic clusters, A and B, with further substructuring within each. Population A consisted of five subpopulations representing large numbers of alleles that were correlated with the geographical origins of the sandflies. Cluster B comprised individuals collected in the Middle East and the northern Mediterranean area. The subpopulations B1 and B2 did not, however, show any further correlation to geographical origin. The genetic differentiation between subpopulations was supported by F statistics showing statistically significant (Bonferroni-corrected P < 0.005) values of 0.221 between B2 and B1 and 0.816 between A5 and A4. Identification of the genetic structure of P. papatasi populations is important for understanding the patterns of dispersal of this species and to developing strategies for sandfly control.