Infection by Rickettsia bellii and Candidatus "Rickettsia amblyommii" in Amblyomma neumanni ticks from Argentina

Marcelo B Labruna, Richard C Pacheco, Santiago Nava, Paulo E Brandão, Leonardo J Richtzenhain, Alberto A Guglielmone
Microbial Ecology 2007, 54 (1): 126-33
The tick species, Amblyomma neumanni (Acari: Ixodidae) is the most frequent tick parasitizing humans in northwestern Argentina. The present study evaluated the rickettsial infection among 55 A. neumanni adult free-living ticks collected in Dean Funes, Córdoba Province. Ticks were individually processed by the hemolymph test with Gimenez staining, isolation of rickettsia in Vero cell culture by the shell vial technique, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting the citrate synthase rickettsial gene. Through the shell vial technique, rickettsiae were successfully isolated and established in Vero cell culture from two ticks (ticks 4 and 13), which previously showed to contain Rickettsia-like organisms by the hemolymph test. These two Rickettsia isolates were designated as An4 and An13. Molecular characterization (partial DNA sequences of two to three rickettsial genes were determined) of these two isolates and phylogenetic analyses identified them as Rickettsia bellii (isolate An4) and Candidatus "Rickettsia amblyommii" (isolate An13). After testing all A. neumanni ticks by PCR, the prevalence of Candidatus R. amblyommii and R. bellii was 23.6% (13/55) and 3.6% (2/55), respectively. These two rickettsiae have been considered of unknown pathogenicity and appropriate studies to test their pathogenicity to humans or animals need to be conducted. This is the first report of Rickettsia in ticks from Argentina, and also in the species A. neumanni. The results reinforce previous findings that R. bellii (and probably Candidatus R. amblyommii) are widespread among some Neotropical Amblyomma species, suggesting that these ticks gained these bacterial agents from a common ancestor and/or by recent horizontal transmission of rickettsiae between ticks.

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