Ticks and serosurvey of anti-Rickettsia spp. antibodies in wild boars (Sus scrofa), hunting dogs and hunters of Brazil

Louise B Kmetiuk, Felipe S Krawczak, Fernanda P Machado, Igor A D Paploski, Thiago F Martins, Pedro I Teider-Junior, Maria C A Serpa, Amália R M Barbieri, Renato V W Bach, Ivan R Barros-Filho, Leandro C Lipinski, Andrea P Dos Santos, Marcelo B Labruna, Alexander W Biondo
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 2019, 13 (5): e0007405

BACKGROUND: Rickettsia bacteria are responsible for diseases in humans and animals around the world, however few details are available regarding its ecology and circulation among wild animals and human populations at high transmission risk in Brazil. The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence of ticks and Rickettsia spp. in wild boars, corresponding hunting dogs and hunters.

METHODS: Serum samples and ticks were collected from 80 free-range wild boars, 170 hunting dogs and 34 hunters from southern and central-western Brazil, from the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado biomes, respectively, between 2016 and 2018. Serum samples were tested by indirect immunofluorescent-antibody assay (IFA) to detect IgG antibodies against Rickettsia rickettsii, Rickettsia parkeri, Rickettsia bellii, Rickettsia rhipicephali and Rickettsia amblyommatis. Tick species were identified by morphological taxonomic keys, as previously described. A total of 164 ticks including A. sculptum, A. brasiliense and A. aureolatum were tested in PCR assays for Spotted Fever Group (SFG) Rickettsia spp.

RESULTS: A total of 58/80 (72.5%) wild boars, 24/170 (14.1%) hunting dogs and 5/34 (14.7%) hunters were positive (titers ≥ 64) to at least one Rickettsia species. A total of 669/1,584 (42.2%) ticks from wild boars were identified as Amblyomma sculptum, 910/1,584 (57.4%) as Amblyomma brasiliense, 4/1,584(0.24%) larvae of Amblyomma spp. and 1/1,584 (0.06%) nymph as Amblyolmma dubitatum. All 9 ticks found on hunting dogs were identified as Amblyomma aureolatum and all 22 ticks on hunters as A. sculptum. No tested tick was positive by standard PCR to SFG Rickettsia spp.

CONCLUSIONS: The present study was the concomitant report of wild boar, hunting dog and hunter exposure to SFG rickettsiae agents, performed in two different Brazilian biomes. Wild boar hunting may increase the risk of human exposure and consequently tick-borne disease Wild boars may be carrying and spreading capybara ticks from their original habitats to other ecosystems. Further studies can be required to explore the ability of wild boars to infecting ticks and be part of transmission cycle of Rickettsia spp.

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