Isolation of Rickettsia rickettsii from the tick Amblyomma sculptum from a Brazilian spotted fever-endemic area in the Pampulha Lake region, southeastern Brazil

Marcelo B Labruna, Felipe S Krawczak, Monize Gerardi, Lina C Binder, Amalia R M Barbieri, Gustavo F Paz, Daniel S Rodrigues, Ricardo N Araújo, Marcela Lanza Bernardes, Romario C Leite
Veterinary Parasitology (Amsterdam) 2017, 8: 82-85
Brazilian spotted fever (BSF) is a tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, the deadliest spotted fever of the world, transmitted in southeastern Brazil mainly by the tick Amblyomma sculptum, a member of the Amblyomma cajennense species complex. In the present study, over 5000 adults of A. sculptum ticks were collected by dry ice traps in the Municipal Ecological Park, alongside the Pampulha Lake region, a BSF-endemic area of Belo Horizonte city, state of Minas Gerais, southeastern Brazil. Ticks were taken alive to the laboratory, where a sample of 2100 specimens was processed for isolation of R. rickettsii. For this purpose, ticks were macerated and intraperitoneally inoculated into guinea pigs. Only one out of 21 inoculated guinea pigs presented high fever within 21days post inoculation with tick homogenates. This febrile animal was euthanized and its internal organs were macerated and inoculated into additional guinea pigs (guinea pig passage). A spleen sample from a febrile guinea pig was used to inoculate Vero cells, resulting in a successful isolation and in vitro establishment of rickettsiae. Rickettsia-infected Vero cells were used for molecular characterization of the rickettsial isolate through PCR and DNA sequencing of fragments of three rickettsial genes (gltA, ompA, and ompB), which were all 100% identical to corresponding sequences of R. rickettsii from GenBank. The present R. rickettsii isolate was designated as strain Pampulha. A minimal infection rate of 0.05% R. rickettsii-infected ticks was estimated for A. sculptum population of the Pampulha Lake region. Our results, coupled with epidemiological evidences, suggest that R. rickettsii strain Pampulha, isolated from A. sculptum ticks in the present study, is the strain responsible for human clinical cases of BSF in the Pampulha Lake region of Belo Horizonte city.

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