Ticks parasitizing wild birds in Portugal: Detection of Rickettsia aeschlimannii, R. helvetica and R. massiliae

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From January 2002 to December 2004, 152 ticks were collected from 40 wild birds recovered in Santo André Natural Reserve and Monsanto Forestal Park, Portugal mainland. Five ticks species were identified from 22 species of birds, and new host record were provided for some species. In addition, 32 (21%) ticks were screened by PCR to detect infections with agents belonging to order Rickettsiales: Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, and Rickettsia spp. PCR amplicons were obtained in 5 (15.6%) tick samples. Rickettsia DNA exhibiting gltA sequences similar to those of Rickettsia aeschilimannii, R. helvetica and R. massiliae were identified in Hyalomma marginatum, Ixodes ventalloi and in Rhipicephalus turanicus, respectively. This is the first report of rickettsiae infections in ticks collected from wild birds in Portugal. Giving the results presented above wild birds play an important role in the maintenance and dissemination of several tick species and associated rickettsiae.

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