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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Rickettsia vini n. sp. (Rickettsiaceae) infecting the tick Ixodes arboricola (Acari: Ixodidae)

Marketa Novakova, Francisco B Costa, Frantisek Krause, Ivan Literak, Marcelo B Labruna
Parasites & Vectors 2016 August 26, 9: 469
27565956

BACKGROUND: Recently, a new rickettsia named 'Candidatus Rickettsia vini' belonging to the spotted fever group has been molecularly detected in Ixodes arboricola ticks in Spain, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Turkey, with prevalence reaching up to 100 %. The aim of this study was to isolate this rickettsia in pure culture, and to describe it as a new Rickettsia species.

METHODS: A total of 148 ornitophilic nidicolous ticks Ixodes arboricola were collected in a forest near Breclav (Czech Republic) and examined for rickettsiae. Shell vial technique was applied to isolate rickettsiae in Vero cells. Rickettsial isolation was confirmed by optical microscopy and sequencing of partial sequences of the rickettsial genes gltA, ompA, ompB, and htrA. Laboratory guinea pigs and chickens were used for experimental infestations and infections. Animal blood sera were tested by immunofluorescence assay employing crude antigens of various rickettsiae.

RESULTS: Rickettsia vini n. sp. was successfully isolated from three males of I. arboricola. Phylogenetic analysis of fragments of 1092, 590, 800, and 497 nucleotides of the gltA, ompA, ompB, and htrA genes, respectively, showed closest proximity of R. vini n. sp. to Rickettsia japonica and Rickettsia heilongjiangensis belonging to the spotted fever group. Experimental infection of guinea pigs and chickens with R. vini led to various levels of cross-reactions of R. vini-homologous antibodies with Rickettsia rickettsii, Rickettsia parkeri, 'Candidatus Rickettsia amblyommii', Rickettsia rhipicephali, Rickettsia bellii, and Rickettsia felis. Laboratory infestations by R. vini-infected I. arboricola larvae on chickens led to no seroconversion to R. vini n. sp., nor cross-reactions with R. rickettsii, R. parkeri, 'Ca. R. amblyommii', R. rhipicephali, R. bellii or R. felis.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that R. vini n. sp. is possibly a tick endosymbiont, not pathogenic for guinea pigs and chickens. Regarding specific phenotypic characters and significant differences of DNA sequences in comparison to the most closely related species (R. japonica and R. heilongjiangensis), we propose to classify the isolate as a new species, Rickettsia vini.

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