CANBERRA, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers said Wednesday they have found a deadly parasite can be transmitted by more than one spices of insect, raising hopes the discovery could save lives.
The leismaniasis parasite causes a disease that leads to large ulcers forming on the skin.
According to Menzies School of Health researcher Deborah Holt, no human cases have been recorded in Australia since the leismaniasis parasite was discovered in Australia seven years ago. The strand of parasite in Australia has only infected kangaroos and wallabies.
Scientists believed the disease could only be transmitted by sandflies, but Dr Holt said research shows biting midges can also act as a vector.
Tens of thousands of people around the world are infected by leismaniasis every year and thousands die.
"That's the first evidence anywhere in the world that an insect other than a sandfly is capable of transmitting the parasite," she told ABC News on Wednesday.
"This raises real possibilities that there are other insects involved and that may be a reason why some of the control programs don't work as well as what they would be expected to.
"And in addition there are some places in the world where the vector is unknown and they cannot find evidence that they are being transmitted by sandflies.
"And now we believe that this may be because they are being transmitted by another insect."
Holt said if a deadlier strain was to enter the country from overseas, it could pose a significant risk to people.