Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




Pulex irritans and Pulex simulans are zoonotic flea vectors of plague and other infectious diseases. P. irritans have historically been known to use carnivores as a host, while P. simulans primarily parasitizes omnivores. To fully understand arthropod-borne infectious disease transmissibility and potential for geographical spread, it is important to differentiate between these two flea species. Traditional taxonomy uses the flea's male morphological features to distinguish species. There are no observable morphological differences between the female P. irritans and P. simulans. Molecular markers of the internal transcribed spacer regions (ITS) have been successfully used in other insect organisms to differentiate species that are difficult to distinguish morphologically. This is due to rapidly diverging repetitive sequences found in the ITS regions. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers were identified for P. irritans and P. simulans and provide DNA sequence information of the ITS region. With this ITS sequence information, a real time melting curve PCR protocol has been developed. It includes multiple primers for a distinct single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) of the ITS region used in melting curve analysis. The development of a real time melting curve PCR identification method of P. irritans and P. simulans has the potential to aid phylogeographic research and understanding plague transmission in the environment.

Included in

Biology Commons



Faculty Mentor

Scott Bernhardt

Departmental Honors Advisor

Kim Sullivan

Capstone Committee Member

Ricardo Ramirez