Rickettsia species in human-parasitizing ticks in Greece

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Abstract

Background

Ticks serve as vectors and reservoirs for a variety of bacterial, viral and protozoan pathogens affecting humans and animals. Unusual increased tick aggressiveness was observed in 2008–2009 in northeastern Greece. The aim of the study was to check ticks removed from persons during 2009 for infection with Rickettsia species.

Methods

A total of 159 ticks were removed from 147 persons who sought medical advice in a hospital. Tick identification was performed morphologically using taxonomic keys. DNA was extracted from each individual tick and a PCR assay targeting the rickettsial outer membrane protein A gene of Rickettsia spp. was applied.

Results

Most of the adult ticks (132/153, 86.3%) were Rhipicephalus sanguineus. Rickettsiae were detected in 23 of the 153 (15.0%) adult ticks. Five Rickettsiae species were identified: R. aeschlimannii, R. africae (n=6), R. massilae (4), R. monacensis (1), and Candidatus R. barbariae (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of R. africae, R. monacensis, and Candidatus R. barbariae in Greece.

Conclusions

Several Rickettsia species were identified in ticks removed from humans in Greece, including those that are prevalent in northern and southern latitudes.

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