Tick-borne bacteria in free-living jaguars (Panthera onca) in Pantanal, Brazil

Cynthia E Widmer, Fernando C C Azevedo, Aliny P Almeida, Fernando Ferreira, Marcelo B Labruna
Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 2011, 11 (8): 1001-5
Tick-borne bacteria were investigated in 10 free-living jaguars and their ticks in the Pantanal biome, Brazil. Jaguar sera were tested by indirect fluorescent antibody assays using Rickettsia rickettsii, Rickettsia parkeri, Rickettsia amblyommii, Rickettsia rhipicephali, Rickettsia felis, Rickettsia bellii, Ehrlichia canis, and Coxiella burnetii as crude antigens. All 10 jaguar sera reacted (titer ≥ 64) to at least one Rickettsia species; 4 and 3 sera reacted with E. canis and C. burnetii, respectively. One jaguar presented antibody titer to R. parkeri at least fourfold higher than those to any of the other five Rickettsia antigens, suggesting that this animal was infected by R. parkeri. Ticks collected from jaguars included the species Amblyomma cajennense, Amblyomma triste, and Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus. No Rickettsia DNA was detected in jaguar blood samples, but an A. triste specimen collected on a jaguar was shown by PCR to be infected by R. parkeri. The blood of two jaguars and samples of A. triste, A. cajennense, and Amblyomma sp. yielded Ehrlichia DNA by PCR targeting the ehrlichial genes 16S rRNA and dsb. Partial DNA sequences obtained from PCR products resulted in a new ehrlichial strain, here designated as Ehrlichia sp. strain Jaguar. A partial DNA sequence of the 16S rRNA gene of this novel strain showed to be closest (99.0%) to uncultured strains of Ehrlichia sp. from Japan and Russia and 98.7% identical to different strains of Ehrlichia ruminantium. The ehrlichial dsb partial sequence of strain jaguar showed to be at most 80.7% identical to any Ehrlichia species or genotype available in GenBank. Through phylogenetic analysis, Ehrlichia sp. strain jaguar grouped in a cluster, albeit distantly, with different genotypes of E. ruminantium. Results highlight risks for human and animal health, considering that cattle ranching and ecotourism are major economic activities in the Pantanal region of Brazil.

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