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An Anopheles stephensi mosquito obtaining a blood meal from a human host through its pointed proboscis. Note the droplet of blood being expelled from the engorged abdomen. This mosquito is a malarial vector with a distribution that ranges from Egypt to China. Anopheles stephensi.jpeg
An Anopheles stephensi mosquito obtaining a blood meal from a human host through its pointed proboscis. Note the droplet of blood being expelled from the engorged abdomen. This mosquito is a malarial vector with a distribution that ranges from Egypt to China.
A bedbug Cimex lectularius.jpg
A bedbug
Gatekeeper butterflies (Pyronia tithonus) sucking fresh blood from a sock Blood feeding butterflies 5362.JPG
Gatekeeper butterflies ( Pyronia tithonus ) sucking fresh blood from a sock

Hematophagy (sometimes spelled haematophagy or hematophagia) is the practice by certain animals of feeding on blood (from the Greek words αἷμα haima "blood" and φάγειν phagein "to eat"). Since blood is a fluid tissue rich in nutritious proteins and lipids that can be taken without great effort, hematophagy has evolved as a preferred form of feeding for many small animals, such as worms and arthropods. Some intestinal nematodes, such as Ancylostomids, feed on blood extracted from the capillaries of the gut, and about 75 percent of all species of leeches (e.g., Hirudo medicinalis ), a free-living worm, are hematophagous. Some fish, such as lampreys and candirus, and mammals, especially the vampire bats, and birds, such as the vampire finches, hood mockingbirds, the Tristan thrush, and oxpeckers also practise hematophagy.

Animal kingdom of motile multicellular eukaryotic heterotrophic organisms

Animals are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, can reproduce sexually, and grow from a hollow sphere of cells, the blastula, during embryonic development. Over 1.5 million living animal species have been described—of which around 1 million are insects—but it has been estimated there are over 7 million animal species in total. Animals range in length from 8.5 millionths of a metre to 33.6 metres (110 ft) and have complex interactions with each other and their environments, forming intricate food webs. The category includes humans, but in colloquial use the term animal often refers only to non-human animals. The study of non-human animals is known as zoology.

Blood specialized bodily fluid in animals

Blood is a body fluid in humans and other animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells.

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by medieval Greek.


Mechanism and evolution

These hematophagous animals have mouth parts and chemical agents for penetrating vascular structures in the skin of hosts, mostly of mammals, birds, and fish. This type of feeding is known as phlebotomy (from the Greek words, phleps "vein" and tomos "cutting").

Mouth first portion of the alimentary canal that receives food

In animal anatomy, the mouth, also known as the oral cavity, buccal cavity, or in Latin cavum oris, is the opening through which many animals take in food and issue vocal sounds. It is also the cavity lying at the upper end of the alimentary canal, bounded on the outside by the lips and inside by the pharynx and containing in higher vertebrates the tongue and teeth. This cavity is also known as the buccal cavity, from the Latin bucca ("cheek").

Host (biology) organism that harbours another organism

In biology and medicine, a host is an organism that harbours a parasitic, a mutualistic, or a commensalist guest (symbiont), the guest typically being provided with nourishment and shelter. Examples include animals playing host to parasitic worms, cells harbouring pathogenic (disease-causing) viruses, a bean plant hosting mutualistic (helpful) nitrogen-fixing bacteria. More specifically in botany, a host plant supplies food resources to micropredators, which have an evolutionarily stable relationship with their hosts similar to ectoparasitism. The host range is the collection of hosts that an organism can use as a partner.

Once phlebotomy is performed (in most insects by a specialized fine hollow "needle," the proboscis, which perforates skin and capillaries; in bats by sharp incisor teeth that act as a razor to cut the skin), blood is acquired either by sucking action directly from the veins or capillaries, from a pool of escaped blood, or by lapping (again, in bats). To overcome natural hemostasis (blood coagulation), vasoconstriction, inflammation, and pain sensation in the host, hematophagous animals have evolved hembiochemical solutions, in their saliva for instance, that they pre-inject—and anesthesia and capillary dilation have evolved in some hematophagous species. Scientists have developed anticoagulant medicines from studying substances in the saliva of several hematophagous species, such as leeches (hirudin).

Proboscis an elongated appendage from the head of an animal, either a vertebrate or an invertebrate

A proboscis is an elongated appendage from the head of an animal, either a vertebrate or an invertebrate. In invertebrates, the term usually refers to tubular mouthparts used for feeding and sucking. In vertebrates, a proboscis is an elongated nose or snout.

Capillary smallest type of blood vessel

A capillary is a small blood vessel from 5 to 10 micrometres (µm) in diameter, and having a wall one endothelial cell thick. They are the smallest blood vessels in the body: they convey blood between the arterioles and venules. These microvessels are the site of exchange of many substances with the interstitial fluid surrounding them. Substances which exit include water, oxygen, and glucose; substances which enter include water, carbon dioxide, uric acid, lactic acid, urea and creatinine. Lymph capillaries connect with larger lymph vessels to drain lymphatic fluid collected in the microcirculation.

Incisor front teeth present in most (but not all — e.g. armadillos) mammals, located in the premaxilla above and on the mandible below; humans have a total of 8 (2 on each side, top and bottom); opossums have 18

Incisors are the front teeth present in most mammals. They are located in the premaxilla above and on the mandible below. Humans have a total of eight. Opossums have 18, whereas armadillos have none.

Hematophagy is classified as either obligatory or facultative. Obligatory hematophagous animals cannot survive on any other food. Examples include Rhodnius prolixus , a South American assassin bug, and Cimex lectularius , the human bed bug. Facultative hematophages, meanwhile, acquire at least some portion of their nutrition from non-blood sources in at least one of the sexually mature forms. Examples of this include many mosquito species, such as Aedes aegypti , whose males feed on pollen and fruit juice (only) while the females survive strictly by feeding on mammalian blood. In anautogenous species, the female can survive without blood, but must consume blood in order to produce eggs (obligatory hematophages are by definition also anautogenous).

<i>Rhodnius prolixus</i> species of insect

Rhodnius prolixus is the principal triatomine vector of the Chagas parasite due to both its sylvatic and domestic populations in northern South America as well as to its exclusively domestic populations in Central America. It has a wide range of ecotopes, mainly savanna and foothills with an altitude of between 500 meters to 1,500 meters above sea level and temperatures of 16 °C to 28 °C. Sylvatic R. prolixus, as virtually all Rhodnius spp., is primarily associated with palm tree habitats and has a wide range of hosts including birds, rodents, marsupials, sloths, and reptiles.

<i>Cimex lectularius</i> species of insect

Cimex lectularius is a species of Cimicidae. Its primary hosts are humans, and it is one of the world's major "nuisance pests".

<i>Aedes aegypti</i> mosquito species

Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, is a mosquito that can spread dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, Mayaro and yellow fever viruses, and other disease agents. The mosquito can be recognized by white markings on its legs and a marking in the form of a lyre on the upper surface of its thorax. This mosquito originated in Africa, but is now found in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world.

As a feeding practice, hematophagy has evolved independently in a number of arthropod, annelid, nematode and mammalian taxa. For example, Diptera (insects with two wings, such as flies) have eleven families with hematophagous habits (more than half of the 19 hematophagous arthropod taxa). About 14,000 species of arthropods are hematophagous, even including some genera that were not previously thought to be, such as moths of the genus Calyptra . Several complementary biological adaptations for locating the hosts (usually in the dark, as most hematophagous species are nocturnal and silent to avoid detection) have also evolved, such as special physical or chemical detectors for sweat components, CO2, heat, light, movement, etc.

Annelid Phylum of segmented worms

The annelidas, also known as the ringed worms or segmented worms, are a large phylum, with over 22,000 extant species including ragworms, earthworms, and leeches. The species exist in and have adapted to various ecologies – some in marine environments as distinct as tidal zones and hydrothermal vents, others in fresh water, and yet others in moist terrestrial environments.

Nematode phylum of animals with tubular digestive systems with openings at both ends

The nematodes or roundworms constitute the phylum Nematoda. They are a diverse animal phylum inhabiting a broad range of environments. Taxonomically, they are classified along with insects and other moulting animals in the clade Ecdysozoa, and unlike flatworms, have tubular digestive systems with openings at both ends.

Fly order of insects

Flies are insects with a pair of functional wings for flight and a pair of vestigial hindwings called halteres for balance. They are classified as an order called Diptera, that name being derived from the Greek δι- di- "two", and πτερόν pteron "wings". The order Diptera is divided into two suborders, with about 110 families divided between them; the families contain an estimated 1,000,000 species, including the familiar housefly, horse-fly, crane fly, and hoverfly; although only about 125,000 species have a species description published. The earliest fly fossils found so far are from the Triassic, about 240 million years ago; phylogenetic analysis suggests that flies originated in the Permian, about 260 million years ago.

Medical importance

The phlebotomic action opens a channel for contamination of the host species with bacteria, viruses and blood-borne parasites contained in the hematophagous organism. Thus, many animal and human infectious diseases are transmitted by hematophagous species, such as the bubonic plague, Chagas disease, dengue fever, eastern equine encephalitis, filariasis, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, malaria, rabies, sleeping sickness, St. Louis encephalitis, tularemia, typhus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile fever, Zika fever, and many others.

Bacteria A domain of prokaryotes – single celled organisms without a nucleus

Bacteria are a type of biological cell. They constitute a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a number of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals. Bacteria were among the first life forms to appear on Earth, and are present in most of its habitats. Bacteria inhabit soil, water, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, and the deep portions of Earth's crust. Bacteria also live in symbiotic and parasitic relationships with plants and animals. Most bacteria have not been characterised, and only about half of the bacterial phyla have species that can be grown in the laboratory. The study of bacteria is known as bacteriology, a branch of microbiology.

Bubonic plague Human and animal disease

Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis. One to seven days after exposure to the bacteria, flu-like symptoms develop. These symptoms include fever, headaches, and vomiting. Swollen and painful lymph nodes occur in the area closest to where the bacteria entered the skin. Occasionally, the swollen lymph nodes may break open.

Chagas disease human disease

Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a tropical parasitic disease caused by the protist Trypanosoma cruzi. It is spread mostly by insects known as Triatominae, or "kissing bugs". The symptoms change over the course of the infection. In the early stage, symptoms are typically either not present or mild, and may include fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, or local swelling at the site of the bite. After 8–12 weeks, individuals enter the chronic phase of disease and in 60–70% it never produces further symptoms. The other 30–40% of people develop further symptoms 10–30 years after the initial infection, including enlargement of the ventricles of the heart in 20–30%, leading to heart failure. An enlarged esophagus or an enlarged colon may also occur in 10% of people.

Insects and arachnids of medical importance for being hematophagous, at least in some species, include the sandfly, blackfly, tsetse fly, bedbug, assassin bug, mosquito, tick, louse, mite, midge, and flea.

Hematophagous organisms have been used by physicians for beneficial purposes (hirudotherapy). Some doctors now use leeches to prevent the clotting of blood on some wounds following surgery or trauma.[ citation needed ] The anticoagulants in the laboratory-raised leeches' saliva keeps fresh blood flowing to the site of an injury, actually preventing infection and increasing chances of full recovery. In a recent study a genetically engineered drug called desmoteplase based on the saliva of Desmodus rotundus (the vampire bat) was shown to improve recovery in stroke patients.[ citation needed ]

Human hematophagy

Many human societies also drink blood or use it to manufacture foodstuffs and delicacies. Cow blood mixed with milk, for example, is a mainstay food of the African Maasai. Marco Polo reported that Mongols drank blood from their horses if necessary. Many places around the world eat blood sausage. Some societies, such as the Moche, had ritual hematophagy, as well as the Scythians, a nomadic people of Russia, who drank the blood of the first enemy they killed in battle. Some religious rituals and symbols seemingly mirror hematophagy, such as in the transubstantiation of wine as the blood of Jesus Christ during Christian eucharist. Psychiatric cases of patients performing hematophagy also exist. Sucking or licking one's own blood from a wound is also a common human behavior, and in small enough quantities is not considered taboo. Finally, human vampirism has been a persistent object of literary and cultural attention.

See also

Related Research Articles

Mosquito family of insects

Mosquitoes are a group of about 3500 species of small insects that are a type of fly. Within that order they constitute the family Culicidae. The word "mosquito" is Spanish for "little fly". Mosquitoes have a slender segmented body, a pair of wings, three pairs of long hair-like legs, feathery antennae, and elongated mouthparts.

<i>Flaviviridae</i> Family of viruses

Flaviviridae is a family of viruses. Humans and other mammals serve as natural hosts. They are primarily spread through arthropod vectors. The family gets its name from the yellow fever virus, the type virus of Flaviviridae; flavus is Latin for "yellow", and Yellow fever in turn was named because of its propensity to cause jaundice in victims. There are currently over 100 species in this family, divided among four genera. Diseases associated with this family include: hepatitis (hepaciviruses), hemorrhagic syndromes, fatal mucosal disease (pestiviruses), hemorrhagic fever, encephalitis, and the birth defect microcephaly (flaviviruses).

Tick order of arachnids

Ticks are small arachnids, typically 3 to 5 mm long, part of the order Parasitiformes. Along with mites, they constitute the subclass Acari. Ticks are ectoparasites, living by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Ticks had evolved by the Cretaceous period, the most common form of fossilisation being immersed in amber. Ticks are widely distributed around the world, especially in warm, humid climates.

Vampire bat subfamily of mammals

Vampire bats are bats whose food source is blood, a dietary trait called hematophagy. Three extant bat species feed solely on blood: the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat. All three species are native to the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina.


Arbovirus is an informal name used to refer to any viruses that are transmitted by arthropod vectors. The word arbovirus is an acronym. The word tibovirus is sometimes used to more specifically describe viruses transmitted by ticks, a superorder within the arthropods. Arboviruses can affect both animals, including humans, and plants. In humans, symptoms of arbovirus infection generally occur 3–15 days after exposure to the virus and last 3 or 4 days. The most common clinical features of infection are fever, headache, and malaise, but encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever may also occur.

<i>Hirudo medicinalis</i> Medicinal leech

Hirudo medicinalis, the European medicinal leech, is one of several species of leeches used as "medicinal leeches".


Bunyavirales is an order of negative-sense single-stranded RNA viruses. It is the only order in the class Ellioviricetes. It was formerly known as Bunyaviridae family of viruses. The name Bunyavirales derives from Bunyamwera, where the original type species Bunyamwera orthobunyavirus was first discovered. Ellioviricetes is named in honor of late virologist Richard M. Elliott for his early work on bunyaviruses.

Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), commonly called Triple E or, sleeping sickness is a zoonotic alphavirus and arbovirus present in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. EEE was first recognized in Massachusetts, United States, in 1831 when 75 horses died mysteriously of viral encephalitis. Epizootics in horses have continued to occur regularly in the United States. It can also be identified in asses and zebras. Due to the rarity of the disease, its occurrence can cause economic impact in relation to the loss of horses and poultry. EEE is found today in the eastern part of the United States and is often associated with coastal plains. It can most commonly be found in East and Gulf coast states. In Florida, about one to two human cases are reported a year, although over 60 cases of equine encephalitis are reported. Some years in which conditions are favorable for the disease, the number of equine cases is over 200. Diagnosing equine encephalitis is challenging because many of the symptoms are shared with other illnesses and patients can be asymptomatic. Confirmations may require a sample of cerebral spinal fluid or brain tissue, although CT scans and MRI scans are used to detect encephalitis. This could be an indication that the need to test for EEE is necessary. If a biopsy of the cerebral spinal fluid is taken, it is sent to a specialized laboratory for testing.

Hirudin chemical compound

Hirudin is a naturally occurring peptide in the salivary glands of blood-sucking leeches that has a blood anticoagulant property. This is fundamental for the leeches’ alimentary habit of hematophagy, since it keeps the blood flowing after the initial phlebotomy performed by the worm on the host’s skin.

Common vampire bat species of mammal

The common vampire bat is a small, leaf-nosed bat native to the Americas. It is one of three extant species of vampire bat, the other two being the hairy-legged and the white-winged vampire bats. The common vampire bat mainly feeds on the blood of livestock, approaching its prey at night while they are sleeping. It uses its razor-sharp teeth to cut open the skin of its hosts and laps up their blood with its long tongue.

<i>Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus</i> species of virus

Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus is a mosquito-borne viral pathogen that causes Venezuelan equine encephalitis or encephalomyelitis (VEE). VEE can affect all equine species, such as horses, donkeys, and zebras. After infection, equines may suddenly die or show progressive central nervous system disorders. Humans also can contract this disease. Healthy adults who become infected by the virus may experience flu-like symptoms, such as high fevers and headaches. People with weakened immune systems and the young and the elderly can become severely ill or die from this disease.

Culicinae subfamily of insects

The Culicinae are the most extensive subfamily of mosquitoes (Culicidae) and have species in every continent except Antarctica, but are highly concentrated in tropical areas. Mosquitoes are best known as parasites to many vertebrate animals and vectors for disease. They are holometabolous insects, and most species lay their eggs in stagnant water, to benefit their aquatic larval stage.

A canine vector-borne disease (CVBD) is one of "a group of globally distributed and rapidly spreading illnesses that are caused by a range of pathogens transmitted by arthropods including ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and phlebotomine sandflies." CVBDs are important in the fields of veterinary medicine, animal welfare, and public health. Some CVBDs are of zoonotic concern.

Anautogeny Parasitic insect reproductive strategy

In entomology, anautogeny is a reproductive strategy in which an adult female insect must eat a particular sort of meal before laying eggs in order for her eggs to mature. This behavior is most common among dipteran insects, such as mosquitoes. Anautogenous animals often serve as vectors for infectious disease in their hosts because of their contact with hosts' blood. The opposite trait is known as autogeny.

Trinidad Regional Virus Laboratory

The Trinidad Regional Virus Laboratory (T.R.V.L.) was established in Port of Spain, in 1953 by the Rockefeller Foundation in co-operation with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. It was originally housed in an old wooden army barracks near the docks in Port of Spain. A large wired-in "animal house" was built out back to house the many wild animals brought in for study.

Medical entomology

The discipline of medical entomology, or public health entomology, and also veterinary entomology is focused upon insects and arthropods that impact human health. Veterinary entomology is included in this category, because many animal diseases can "jump species" and become a human health threat, for example, bovine encephalitis. Medical entomology also includes scientific research on the behavior, ecology, and epidemiology of arthropod disease vectors, and involves a tremendous outreach to the public, including local and state officials and other stake holders in the interest of public safety, finally in current situation related to one health approach mostly health policy makers recommends to widely applicability of medical entomology for disease control efficient and best fit on achieving development goal and to tackle the newly budding zoonotic diseases. Thoughtful to have and acquaint with best practice of Med. Entomologist to tackle the animal and public health issues together with controlling arthropods born diseases by having Medical Entomologists’ the right hand for bringing the healthy world [Yon w].

Vector (epidemiology) agent that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism

In epidemiology, a disease vector is any agent who carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism; most agents regarded as vectors are organisms, such as intermediate parasites or microbes, but it could be an inanimate medium of infection such as dust particles.

Leech subclass of worms

Leeches are segmented parasitic or predatory worms that belong to the phylum Annelida and comprise the subclass Hirudinea. They are closely related to the oligochaetes, which include the earthworms, and like them have soft, muscular, segmented bodies that can lengthen and contract. Both groups are hermaphrodites and have a clitellum, but leeches typically differ from the oligochaetes in having suckers at both ends and in having external annulations that do not correspond with their internal segmentation. The body is relatively solid, and the spacious body cavity found in other annelids, the coelom, is reduced to small channels.

Mosquito-borne disease

Mosquito-borne diseases or mosquito-borne illnesses are diseases caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites transmitted by mosquitoes. They can transmit disease without being affected themselves. Nearly 700 million people get a mosquito-borne illness each year resulting in over one million deaths.

Hementerin is a metalloprotease found in the saliva of a hematophagous leech, Haementeria depressa, which is responsible for the anticoagulant property of the animal's bite to prolong blood sucking from the host. It was discovered in 1955 at the Butantan Institute, in São Paulo, Brazil, by Gastão Rosenfeld and collaborators.