Isolation of Rickettsia rhipicephali and Rickettsia bellii from Haemaphysalis juxtakochi ticks in the state of São Paulo, Brazil

Marcelo B Labruna, Richard C Pacheco, Leonardo J Richtzenhain, Matias P J Szabó
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2007, 73 (3): 869-73
In the present study, attempts to isolate Rickettsia in cell culture were performed individually in seven specimens of Haemaphysalis juxtakochi ticks collected in the state of São Paulo (southeastern Brazil). Rickettsia was successfully isolated by the shell vial technique and established in Vero cell culture from six ticks (six isolates). DNA extracted from infected cells of these isolates was tested by PCR and DNA sequencing, using genus-specific Rickettsia primers targeting the genes gltA, htrA, ompA, and ompB. After the generated sequences were compared with available sequences in GenBank, five out of the six isolates were identified as Rickettsia bellii (isolates HJ#1, HJ#2, HJ#3, HJ#4, and HJ#7). The sixth isolate (HJ#5) was closest to Rickettsia sp. strain R300, previously detected in H. juxtakochi in northern Brazil, and to Rickettsia rhipicephali, isolated from ticks in the United States. Following recent gene sequence-based criteria proposed for the identification of Rickettsia isolates, both isolate HJ#5 and strain R300 were identified as South American strains of R. rhipicephali, which was confirmed in this continent for the first time. Isolation of R. bellii from H. juxtakochi ticks, added to eight other tick species that have been reported to be infected with this bacterium in Brazil, indicates that R. bellii is indeed the most frequent Rickettsia species infecting ticks in Brazil. Currently, the role of both R. rhipicephali and R. bellii as human pathogens is regarded as unknown.

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