Open Access Short Report

Evidence of Yersinia pestis DNA from fleas in an endemic plague area of Zambia

Bernard M Hang'ombe1*, Ichiro Nakamura2, Kenny L Samui1, Davy Kaile3, Aaron S Mweene1, Bukheti S Kilonzo4, Hirofumi Sawa2, Chihiro Sugimoto2 and Brendan W Wren5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia

2 Hokkaido University Research Center for Zoonosis Control, Sapporo, Japan

3 Namwala District Medical officer, Namwala District, Zambia

4 Sokoine University of Agriculture, Sokoine, Tanzania

5 Department of Pathogen Biology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:72  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-72

Published: 26 January 2012



Yersinia pestis is a bacterium that causes plague which infects a variety of mammals throughout the world. The disease is usually transmitted among wild rodents through a flea vector. The sources and routes of transmission of plague are poorly researched in Africa, yet remains a concern in several sub-Saharan countries. In Zambia, the disease has been reported on annual basis with up to 20 cases per year, without investigating animal reservoirs or vectors that may be responsible in the maintenance and propagation of the bacterium. In this study, we undertook plague surveillance by using PCR amplification of the plasminogen activator gene in fleas.


Xenopsylla species of fleas were collected from 83 rodents trapped in a plague endemic area of Zambia. Of these rodents 5 had fleas positive (6.02%) for Y. pestis plasminogen activator gene. All the Y. pestis positive rodents were gerbils.


We conclude that fleas may be responsible in the transmission of Y. pestis and that PCR may provide means of plague surveillance in the endemic areas of Zambia.