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Title: Molecular detection of Rickettsia spp. in ticks and fleas collected from rescued hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in Portugal.
Authors: Barradas, Patrícia F.
Mesquita, João R.
Mateus, Teresa L.
Ferreira, Paula
Amorim, Irina
Gärtner, Fátima
Keywords: Rickettsia asembonensis
Archaeopsylla erinacei
Rhipicephalus sanguineus
Hedgehog · Portugal
Issue Date: 2-Mar-2021
Citation: Barradas, P. F., Mesquita, J. R., Mateus, T. L., Ferreira, P., Amorim, I., Gärtner, F. & Sousa, R. (2021). Molecular detection of Rickettsia spp. in ticks and fleas collected from rescued hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in Portugal. Experimental & applied acarology.
Abstract: Hedgehogs (e.g., Erinaceus europaeus, E. roumanicus) are wild mammals that frequently are observed near residential areas. The aim of this study was to investigate ticks and feas collected from European hedgehogs in Portugal and to evaluate the prevalence of Rickettsia in those ectoparasites. Ticks and feas were identifed by morphological and molecular methods, and molecular detection by PCR and genotypic characterization of Rickettsia spp. was performed targeting ompB, ompA and gltA gene fragments. In total, 1892 ticks and 213 feas were collected from 33 rescued European hedgehogs captured in seven districts of the north and centre of Portugal. Two tick species were identifed – Rhipicephalus sanguineus accounted for 91% (n=1719) of the total ticks collected and 9% (n=173) were Ixodes hexagonus. All feas were identifed as Archaeopsylla erinacei. Regarding pathogen detection, Rickettsia massiliae DNA was found in 22 of the 212 tested Rh. sanguineus. None of the 48 I. hexagonus tested showed to be positive for rickettsiae. Rickettsia asembonensis DNA was identifed in 55 A. erinacei feas tested (n=117). These results show that European hedgehogs are exposed to R. massiliae transmitted by ticks and to R. asembonensis via feas suggesting that these mammals might be involved in the natural transmission cycle of these Rickettsia species. This study is the frst report of R. asembonensis in feas in Portugal.
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