Borrelia, Coxiella, and Rickettsia in Carios capensis (Acari: Argasidae) from a brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) rookery in South Carolina, USA

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Argasid ticks are vectors of viral and bacterial agents of humans and animals. Carios capensis, a tick of seabirds, infests the nests of brown pelicans, Pelecanus occidentalis, and other ground nesting birds along the coast of South Carolina. This tick is associated with pelican nest abandonment and could pose a threat to humans visiting pelican rookeries if visitors are exposed to ticks harboring infectious agents. We collected ticks from a pelican rookery on Deveaux Bank, South Carolina and screened 64 individual ticks, six pools of larvae, and an egg mass for DNA from Bartonella, Borrelia, Coxiella, and Rickettsia by polymerase chain reaction amplification and sequencing. Ticks harbored DNA from “Borrelia lonestari”, a novel Coxiella sp., and three species of Rickettsia, including Rickettsia felis and two undescribed Rickettsia spp. DNA from the Coxiella and two undescribed Rickettsia were detected in unfed larvae that emerged in the laboratory, which implies these agents are transmitted vertically by female ticks. We partially characterize the novel Coxiella by molecular means.

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