Oriental rat flea

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Oriental rat flea
Xenopsylla cheopis flea PHIL 2069 lores.jpg
Scientific classification
X. cheopis
Binomial name
Xenopsylla cheopis
(Rothschild, 1903) [1]

The Oriental rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis), also known as the tropical rat flea, is a parasite of rodents, primarily of the genus Rattus , and is a primary vector for bubonic plague and murine typhus. This occurs when the flea has fed on an infected rodent and bites a human, although this flea can live on any warm blooded mammal.

Rat several genera of rodents

Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents. Species of rats are found throughout the order Rodentia, but stereotypical rats are found in the genus Rattus. Other rat genera include Neotoma, Bandicota and Dipodomys.

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.

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.


Body structure

The Oriental rat flea has no genal or pronotal combs. This characteristic can be used to differentiate the oriental rat flea from the cat flea, dog flea, and other fleas.

Cat flea species of insect

The cat flea is an extremely common parasitic insect whose principal host is the domestic cat, although a high proportion of the fleas found on dogs also belong to this species. This is despite the widespread existence of a separate and well-established "dog" flea, Ctenocephalides canis.

Dog flea species of insect

The dog flea is a species of flea that lives as an ectoparasite on a wide variety of mammals, particularly the domestic dog and cat. It closely resembles the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, which can live on a wider range of animals and is generally more prevalent worldwide.

Flea order of insects

Flea, the common name for the order Siphonaptera, includes 2,500 species of small flightless insects that survive as external parasites of mammals and birds. Fleas live by consuming blood or hematophagy, from their hosts. Adult fleas grow to about 3 mm or .12 in long, are usually brown, and have bodies that are "flattened" sideways, or narrow, enabling them to move through their host's fur or feathers. They lack wings, but have strong claws preventing them from being dislodged; mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood, and hind legs extremely well adapted for jumping. They are able to leap a distance of some 50 times their body length, a feat second only to jumps made by another group of insects, the superfamily of froghoppers. Fleas' larvae are worm-like with no limbs; they have chewing mouthparts and feed on organic debris left on their host's skin.

The flea's body is only about one tenth of an inch long (about 2.5 mm). A flea's body is constructed to make it easier to jump long distances. The flea's body consists of three regions: head, thorax, and abdomen. The head and the thorax have rows of bristles (called combs), and the abdomen consists of eight visible segments.

A flea's mouth has two functions: one for squirting saliva or partly digested blood into the bite, and one for sucking up blood from the host. This process mechanically transmits pathogens that may cause diseases the flea might have. Fleas smell exhaled carbon dioxide from humans and animals and jump rapidly to the source to feed on the newly found host. A flea is wingless so it can not fly, but it can jump long distances with the help of small, powerful legs. A flea's leg consists of four parts: the part that is closest to the body is the coxa; next are the femur, tibia, and tarsus. A flea can use its legs to jump up to 200 times its own body length (about 20 in or 50 cm).

In biology, a pathogen is also known as an infectious agent, or a germ. In the oldest and broadest sense, a pathogen is anything that can produce disease; the term came into use in the 1880s. Typically the term pathogen is used to describe an infectious microorganism or agent, such as a virus, bacterium, protozoan, prion, viroid, or fungus. Small animals, such as certain kinds of worms and insect larvae, can also produce disease but such animals are usually, in common parlance, referred to as parasites rather than pathogens. The scientific study of microscopic, pathogenic organisms is called microbiology, while the study of disease that may include these pathogens is called pathology. Parasitology, meanwhile, is the scientific study of parasites and the organisms that host them.

Life cycle

Male and female Xenopsylla cheopis XenopsyllaCheopisHerms.jpg
Male and female Xenopsylla cheopis

There are four stages in a flea's life. The first stage is the egg stage. Microscopic white eggs fall easily from the female to the ground or from the animal she lays on. If they are laid on an animal, they soon fall off in the dust or in the animals bedding. If the eggs do fall immediately on the ground, then they fall into crevices on the floor where they will be safe until they hatch one to ten days later (depending on the environment that they live in, it may take longer to hatch). They hatch into a larva that looks very similar to a worm and is about two millimeters long. It only has a small body and a mouth part. At this stage, the flea does not drink blood; instead it eats dead skin cells, flea droppings, and other smaller parasites lying around them in the dust. When the larva is mature it makes a silken cocoon around itself and pupates. The flea remains a pupa from one week to six months changing in a process called metamorphosis. When the flea emerges, it begins the final cycle, called the adult stage. A flea can now suck blood from host and mate with other fleas. A single female flea can mate once and lay eggs every day with up to 50 eggs per day.

Pupa life stage of some insects undergoing transformation

A pupa is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation between immature and mature stages. The pupal stage is found only in holometabolous insects, those that undergo a complete metamorphosis, with four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and imago. The processes of entering and completing the pupal stage are controlled by the insect's hormones, especially juvenile hormone, prothoracicotropic hormone, and ecdysone.

Metamorphosis profound change in body structure during the postembryonic development of an organism

Metamorphosis is a biological process by which an animal physically develops after birth or hatching, involving a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change in the animal's body structure through cell growth and differentiation. Metamorphosis is iodothyronine-induced and an ancestral feature of all chordates. Some insects, fishes, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans, cnidarians, echinoderms, and tunicates undergo metamorphosis, which is often accompanied by a change of nutrition source or behavior. Animals that go through metamorphosis are called metamorphoses. Animals can be divided into species that undergo complete metamorphosis ("holometaboly"), incomplete metamorphosis ("hemimetaboly"), or no metamorphosis ("ametaboly").

Experimentally, it has been shown that the fleas flourish in dry climatic conditions with temperatures of 20–25 °C (68–77 °F). [2] They can live up to a year and can stay in the cocoon stage for up to a year if the conditions are not favourable.


The rat flea was collected in Egypt by Charles Rothschild along with Karl Jordan and described in 1903. [3] He named it cheopis after the Cheops pyramids. [4]

Charles Rothschild English entomologist

Nathaniel Charles Rothschild, known as "Charles", was an English banker and entomologist and a member of the Rothschild family. He is remembered for The Rothschild List, a list he made in 1915 of 284 sites across Britain that he considered suitable for nature reserves.

Karl Jordan German entomologist

Heinrich Ernst Karl Jordan was a German-British entomologist.

Great Pyramid of Giza oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis and it is one of the seven wonders in the world

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.

Diseases transmission

This species can act as a vector for plague, Yersinia pestis , Rickettsia typhi and also act as a host for tapeworms Hymenolepis diminuta and Hymenolepis nana . Diseases can be transmitted from one generation of fleas to the next through the eggs. [5]

Related Research Articles

Plague (disease) contagious and frequently fatal human disease

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Symptoms include fever, weakness and headache. Usually this begins one to seven days after exposure. In the bubonic form there is also swelling of lymph nodes, while in the septicemic form tissues may turn black and die, and in the pneumonic form shortness of breath, cough and chest pain may occur.

Hymenolepiasis is infestation by one of two species of tapeworm: Hymenolepis nana or H. diminuta. Alternative names are dwarf tapeworm infection and rat tapeworm infection. The disease is a type of helminthiasis which is classified as a neglected tropical disease.

<i>Tunga penetrans</i> species of insect

Tunga penetrans is a parasitic insect found in most tropical and sub-tropical climates. It is native to Central and South America, and has been inadvertently introduced by humans to sub-Saharan Africa.

Murine typhus typhus transmitted by fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis), usually on rats

Murine typhus is a form of typhus transmitted by fleas, usually on rats. Murine typhus is an under-recognized entity, as it is often confused with viral illnesses. Most people who are infected do not realize that they have been bitten by fleas.

<i>Cotinis nitida</i> species of insect

Cotinis nitida, commonly known as the green June beetle, June bug or June beetle, is a beetle of the family Scarabaeidae. It is found in the eastern United States, where it is most abundant in the South. It is sometimes confused with the related southwestern species figeater beetle Cotinis mutabilis, which is less destructive.

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].

Paul-Louis Simond French biologist

Paul-Louis Simond was a French physician, chief medical officer and biologist whose major contribution to science was his demonstration that the intermediates in the transmission of bubonic plague from rats to humans are the fleas Xenopsylla cheopis that dwell on infected rats.

Human flea species of insect

The human flea – once also called the house flea – is a cosmopolitan flea species that has, in spite of the common name, a wide host spectrum. It is one of six species in the genus Pulex; the other five are all confined to the Nearctic and Neotropical regions. The species is thought to have originated in South America, where its original host may have been the guinea pig or peccary.

Theories of the Black Death are a variety of explanations that have been advanced to explain the nature and transmission of the Black Death (1347–51). A number of epidemiologists and since the 1980s have challenged the traditional view that the Black Death was caused by plague based on the type and spread of the disease. The confirmation in 2010 and 2011 that Yersinia pestis DNA was associated with a large number of plague sites has renewed focus on plague as the leading hypothesis, but has not yet led to a final resolution of all these questions.

Operation Big Itch

Operation Big Itch was a U.S. entomological warfare field test using uninfected fleas to determine their coverage and survivability as a vector for biological agents. The tests were conducted at Dugway Proving Ground in 1954.

The E14 munition was a cardboard sub-munition developed by the United States biological weapons program as an anti-crop weapon. In a series of field tests in 1955, the E14 was loaded with fleas and air-dropped.

The E23 munition was a cardboard sub-munition developed by the United States biological weapons program for use as an anti-crop weapon. The E23 underwent a conversion for use as a vector weapon and was briefly used in large-scale entomological warfare trial but technical issues forced it from the tests.

<i>Nosopsyllus fasciatus</i> species of insect

Nosopsyllus fasciatus, the northern rat flea, is a species of flea found on domestic rats and house mice. Northern rat fleas are external parasites, living by hematophagy off the blood of rodents. It is the most widely spread of its genus, having originated in Europe, but has been transported to temperate regions all over the world.

A rat flea is a parasite of rodents.

Ornithonyssus bacoti is a hematophagous parasite. It feeds on blood and serum from many hosts. O. bacoti can be found and cause disease on rats and wild rodents most commonly, but also small mammals and humans when other hosts are scarce. Outbreaks tend to occur in older, less maintained buildings. The mite, however, can travel several hundred feet on its own if necessary to find a host and can survive for extended periods of time without a host. This, along with the nonspecific dermatitis it causes, can prevent accurate and fast diagnosis of rat mite dermatitis. The scarcity of reports, due in part to misdiagnosis and also the mildness of its symptoms, makes the disease seem less common than it is. The tropical rat mite can be found in both temperate and tropical regions or rather all continents except the Arctic and Antarctic.

<i>Ceratophyllus gallinae</i> species of insect

Ceratophyllus gallinae, known as the hen flea in Europe or the European chicken flea elsewhere, is an ectoparasite of birds. This flea was first described by the German botanist and entomologist Franz von Paula Schrank in 1803.

Pulicidae family of insects

The Pulicidae are a flea family in the order Siphonaptera. Currently, this family has 181 species in 27 genera. Of these, 16 are known from North America.


  1. N. C. Rothschild (1903). "New species of Siphonaptera from Egypt and the Soudan". Entomologist's Monthly Magazine . 39: 83–87. doi:10.5962/bhl.part.17671.
  2. J. F. D. Shrewsbury (2005). A History of Bubonic Plague in the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. p. 3. ISBN   978-0-521-02247-7.
  3. Manuscript, Drawing and Photograph Collection of Nathaniel Charles Rothschild (1877–1923)
  4. Marren, Peter; Mabey, Richard (2010). Bugs Britannica. Chatto & Windus. pp. 147–. ISBN   978-0-7011-8180-2.
  5. A. Farhang-Azad, R. Traub & S. Baqar (1985). "Transovarial transmission of murine typhus rickettsiae in Xenopsylla cheopis fleas". Science . 227 (4686): 543–545. doi:10.1126/science.3966162. PMID   3966162.