Human Flea

There are about 2500 species of fleas, of which nearly 90% occur on mammals, and 10% on birds. About 25% occur only on a single mammalian species or genus. Of the more than 2,500 known fleas, three major species feed on pets and humans. The most widespread is the cat flea Ctenocephalides felis, which is highly common in both dogs and cats in all corners of the world. Also the dog flea Ctenocephalides canis and the human flea Pulex irritans are globally distributed, although with lower rates. These fleas have a low degree of species-specificity, being able to infest companion animals, humans and wildlife.4

In many areas of the word, fleas are common ectoparasites of dogs. They can cause blood loss anemia, flea bite and flea allergic dermatitis, one of the most important skin conditions of household animals, and one of the most frequent causes for seeking veterinary advice. Fleas are intermediate hosts of parasites and vectors of bacterial pathogens of zoonotic importance, such as Bartonella species. Blood-feeding adults of Ctenocephalides species may cause iron deficiency anemia especially in puppies and kittens.

Pulex irritans, the human flea, is a ubiquitous pest of humans. Although it is called human flea, it is also commonly found on coarse-coated mammals, such as cats, dogs, pigs, cattle, goats, sheep, and even chickens. The human flea is becoming uncommon in industrilized countries, and both its place and dog flea's place are being taken by the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). This species remains common in developing countries and is potentially an important vector of fatal diseases. The species has been suspected of bubonic, vesicular and tonsillar plague transmission. Like many other fleas found in houses, Pulex irritans acts as an intermediate host of the dog tapeworm Dipylidium caninum, Hymenolepis diminuta (rat tapeworm), and Hymenolepis diminuta (dwarf tapeworm) which may infect humans, especially children.1,3 Dogs living on dairy goat and sheep farms are commonly infested with Pulex irritans.

Adults are brown to yellowish brown, about 2 mm long. Eggs are about 0.5 mm, oval and white. Adult life span is about 30-60 days, depending on the temperature and humidity.

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The control of fleas is not straightforward and requires integrated approaches. Infected pets and environments are still a major cause of striving for veterinarians and pet owners, considering the fact that resistance to flea-control products has been reported to: carbamates, organophosphates, pyrethroids, pyrethrins, organochlorines, permethrin, chlorpyrifos, and fipronil, although a great many of safe and effective products is still available to be used either on the animal or in the environment, or both.5


  1. Manson's Tropical Diseases. Gordon Charles Cook, Alimuddin Zumla
  2. Urban Insects and Arachnids: A Handbook of Urban Entomology. William H. Robinson
  3. Parasitology: An Integrated Approach. Alan Gunn, Sarah Jane Pitt
  4. Fleas infesting pets in the era of emerging extra-intestinal nematodes
  5. Insecticide/acaricide resistance in fleas and ticks infesting dogs and cats

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