New approaches to detection and identification of Rickettsia africae and Ehrlichia ruminantium in Amblyomma variegatum (Acari: Ixodidae) ticks from the Caribbean

Jennilee B Robinson, Marina E Eremeeva, Patrick E Olson, Scott A Thornton, Michael J Medina, John W Sumner, Gregory A Daschi
Journal of Medical Entomology 2009, 46 (4): 942-51
Imported from Africa in the 1700s and despite frequent modern eradication efforts, Amblyomma variegatum (F.) spread through the Caribbean by cattle transport, small ruminants, and migrating birds. A. variegatum is a vector for Rickettsia africae, the causative agent of African tick bite fever, and Ehrlichia ruminantium, the causative agent of heartwater. We examined 95 A. variegatum and six Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus (Canestrini) collected from cattle at an abattoir in Antigua. Engorged tick extracts adsorbed on Nobotu filter paper strips and new nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for E. ruminantium and Dermatophilus congolensis were used to evaluate these ticks for the presence of these pathogenic bacteria. Amblyomma ticks (62.4%) contained R. africae DNA by PCR/restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and DNA sequencing of the OmpA and 17-kDa antigen genes. Twenty Amblyomma and two Rh. microplus contained E. ruminantium DNA. No E. chaffeensis, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Coxiella burnetii, or D. congolensis DNA was detected in these ticks. The continued presence of Am. variegatum in the Caribbean poses a significant risk of infection in cattle with E. ruminantium and in humans by R. africae. Eradication efforts are essential to prevent the further spread of Am. variegatum.

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