Publications by authors named "Marcelo B Labruna"

337 Publications

Risk factors associated with tick infestations on equids in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, with notes on Rickettsia massiliae detection.

Parasit Vectors 2021 Jul 13;14(1):363. Epub 2021 Jul 13.

Department of Preventive Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.

Background: Studies on ticks infesting equids are lacking in various parts of the world, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Pakistan. The aim of this study was to investigate the diversity of ticks infesting equids, associated risk factors and rickettsial detection in ticks from equids in KP.

Methods: Inspection of 404 equid hosts from November 2018 to October 2019 resulted in the collection of 550 ticks. Data on tick-associated risk factors were collected from equid owners by means of a questionnaire. After morphological identification, partial DNA sequences of the tick mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene were used for taxonomic confirmation of species. Partial sequences of the gltA and ompA genes were used for Rickettsia detection in ticks.

Results: A total of 550 tick specimens were collected on 324 (80.2%) of the equids inspected, of which 161 were horses (50%), 145 (45%) were donkeys and 18 were mules (5%). The ticks were identified as belonging to the following five species: Rhipicephalus microplus (341 specimens, 62% of the total ticks), Rh. haemaphysaloides (126, 23%), Rh. turanicus (39, 7%), Rh. sanguineus (s.l.) (33, 6%) and Hyalomma anatolicum (11, 2%). The most prevalent tick life stage was adult females (279, 51%) followed by adult males (186, 34%) and nymphs (85, 15%). Higher tick infestations were observed on male equids (relative risk [RR] 0.7432, P < 0.0005) and adult equids (RR 1.268, P < 0.0020). Ticks were frequently attached to the axial region of horses (55, 21%), sternum of donkeys (44, 21%) and belly of mules (19, 23%) (P < 0.04). Temporal patterns of tick infestation in association with temperature and humidity were highly significant (P < 0.05). Risk factors, such as animal housing (P < 0.0003), living management (P < 0.006), grazing type (P < 0.01) and location in hilly areas (P < 0.02), significantly enhanced the chances for tick infestation. Tick species analyzed in this study were phylogenetically related to species from Afghanistan, China, South Africa and Taiwan. Partial sequences of the gltA and ompA genes obtained from Rh. microplus and Rh. haemaphysaloides were 100% identical to the spotted fever group pathogen Rickettsia massiliae.

Conclusions: Equids exposed to significant risk factors were infected by one or more of at least five tick species in KP, Pakistan, and some of the ticks harbored the human pathogen R. massiliae.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-021-04836-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8276440PMC
July 2021

Experimental infection and vector competence of Amblyomma patinoi, a member of the Amblyomma cajennense species complex, for the human pathogen Rickettsia rickettsii.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2021 May 29;12(5):101751. Epub 2021 May 29.

Departamento de Medicina Veterinária Preventiva e Saúde Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia, Universidade de São Paulo-USP, Av. Prof. Orlando Marques de Paiva, 87, São Paulo, SP 05508-270, Brazil. Electronic address:

Amblyomma patinoi ticks infected with Rickettsia rickettsii are present in Colombia, but its vector competence is unknown. Hence, we evaluated the vector competence of A. patinoi with R. rickettsii under laboratory conditions. Experimental guinea pigs and rabbits (males and females) were separated in the infected group (IG) and the control group (CG). In the IG, the filial 1 (F1) larvae (R. rickettsii-free) from Colombian A. patinoi engorged female specimens were exposed to R. rickettsii (ITU strain) by feeding on infected guinea pigs. Next, F1 nymphs and adults, and F2 larvae were allowed to feed on uninfected guinea pigs or rabbits and tested by qPCR targeting the gltA rickettsial gene. All animals used to feed the IG F1 ticks became febrile and had R. rickettsii infection (89% fatality rate) detected through serological or molecular techniques. After the F1 larvae ticks became R. rickettsii infected, subsequent IG tick stages were able to maintain the rickettsial infection by transstadial maintenance to all infested animals, indicating A. patinoi vector competence. Subsequently, almost 31% of the F1 female egg masses and only 42% of their F2 larvae were infected. Less than 50% of the infected females transmitted R. rickettsii transovarially, and only a part of the offspring were infected. This study demonstrated that A. patinoi might not be able to sustain R. rickettsii infection by transovarial transmission for successive tick generations without horizontal transmission via rickettsemic hosts. This condition might result in low R. rickettsii-infection rates of A. patinoi under natural conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2021.101751DOI Listing
May 2021

Exploring the ecological and evolutionary relationships between Rickettsia and hard ticks in the Neotropical region.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2021 Jun 4;12(5):101754. Epub 2021 Jun 4.

Departamento de Medicina Veterinária Preventiva e Saúde Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Prof. Orlando Marques de Paiva, 87, Cidade Universitária. São Paulo, SP, 05508-270, Brazil.

This study addresses a meta-analysis of the distribution of Rickettsia spp. in the Neotropical region, as well as their associations with ticks and vertebrates. A total of 219 published reports on Rickettsia in ticks in the target region were compiled, providing 599 records of 31 species of Rickettsia recorded in 50 species of Ixodidae. The aim is to capture the phylogenetic relationships between rickettsiae and the ticks carrying them in the target region, with a focus on the co-speciation ticks-rickettsiae. We compared the phylogeny of ticks, the records of rickettsiae, the environmental gradients colonized by ticks and the effect of the phylogenetic composition of vertebrates feeding ticks on the detection of Rickettsia in ticks. Results show that differences in rickettsial composition in ticks do not depend on the vertebrate's blood-source. This is the first time this result is demonstrated. This study pinpoints that some Neotropical rickettsial organisms are associated with well-defined phylogenetical clusters of ticks. Secondarily, and probably only in a few cases, rickettsiae share species of phylogenetically distant ticks distributed along a gradient of environmental traits in which the ticks overlap (i.e., the different strains of Rickettsia parkeri sensu lato). We outline the importance of some ticks that share hosts and habitat: these ticks may act as "bridges" for the circulation of rickettsial species. There are also many species of Rickettsia that have been detected so far in only one tick species, pointing to a tight relationship or to the lack of data preventing conclusions about the detection of these bacteria in other ticks. Two species, namely Rickettsia amblyommatis and Rickettsia bellii have been recorded in the majority of ticks in the region (mainly Amblyomma spp.) and seem to be not associated with definite tick species because they may be an essential symbiont of the ticks. We conclude that an adequate analysis of rickettsiae-ticks-habitat is necessary to address the human health issues derived from the infections by rickettsiae.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2021.101754DOI Listing
June 2021

Life Cycle and Genetic Identification of Infesting Domestic Fowl in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.

Front Vet Sci 2021 19;8:664731. Epub 2021 May 19.

Department of Zoology, Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, Mardan, Pakistan.

Ticks transmit numerous pathogens to animals including humans; therefore, they are parasites of health concern. Soft ticks infesting domestic fowl in Pakistan are carriers of viruses and bacteria and cause unestimated economic losses in the poultry sector. The current study was intended to identify soft ticks infesting domestic fowl and understand their spatiotemporal distribution along 1 year. A sum of 7,219 soft ticks were collected from 608 domestic fowl in 58 infested shelters; 938 (12.9%) ticks were found on the host and 6,281 (87%) in the shelters. The collected ticks comprised 3,503 (48.52%) adults including 1,547 (21.42%) males and 1,956 (27.09%) females, 3,238 (44.85%) nymphs, and 478 (6.62%) larvae. The most prevalent life stages were adults, followed by nymphs and larvae. Overall tick prevalence considering all visited shelters was 38.66% (58/150). The highest tick prevalence was found in district Lakki Marwat (50.03%) followed by Peshawar (31.08%) and Chitral (18.88%) districts. All ticks were morpho-taxonomically identified as . To determine their life cycle, adult were reared in the laboratory infesting domestic fowl (). The life cycle was completed in 113-132 days (egg to egg) with a mean temperature of 33 ± 3°C and relative humidity of 65 ± 5%. Individual ticks were used for DNA extraction and subjected to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using specific primers for the amplification of a partial fragment of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I () and 16S ribosomal RNA (16S rRNA) genes. Obtained amplicons were compared using basic local alignment search tool (BLAST) to scan for homologous sequences. Phylogenetic trees showed from Pakistan clustering with conspecific sequences reported from Australia, Chile, China, Kenya, and the United States. This is the first study aiming to reproduce the life cycle of and genetically identify this tick in the region. Further studies are encouraged to investigate the pathogens associated with this soft tick species in Pakistan.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2021.664731DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8170322PMC
May 2021

A new species of soft tick from dry tropical forests of Brazilian Caatinga.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2021 May 19;12(5):101748. Epub 2021 May 19.

Departamento de Medicina Veterinária Preventiva e Saúde Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Prof. Orlando Marques de Paiva, 87, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo, SP 05508-270, Brazil.

Ornithodoros tabajara n. sp. is described from laboratory-reared larvae and adult specimens collected in the Brazilian Caatinga. This new species shares the ecological niche with Ornithodoros rietcorreai and is likely associated with colonial rodents of genus Kerodon. However, O. tabajara n. sp. is morphologically easy to distinguish from O. rietcorreai and other Neotropical Ornithodoros by a unique combination of characters: larva with 17 pairs of dorsal setae (seven anterolateral, three central and seven posterolateral), sub-oval dorsal plate, hypostome blunt apically with dentition formula 2/2 along its extension, only one pair of posthypostomal setae, six pairs of sternal setae, posteromedian setae absent, and leave-shaped anal valves; alive adults with whitish islands of mammillae symmetrically distributed on dorsum (not visible in ethanol-preserved specimens), and median disk merging with posteromedian file. A phylogenetic analysis performed with mitochondrial 16S rDNA sequences points O. tabajara n. sp. as O. rietcorreai's sister taxon, which rises the hypothesis of sympatric speciation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2021.101748DOI Listing
May 2021

Coxiella burnetii and Related Tick Endosymbionts Evolved from Pathogenic Ancestors.

Genome Biol Evol 2021 Jul;13(7)

Department of Biology and Center for Life in Extreme Environments, Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA.

Both symbiotic and pathogenic bacteria in the family Coxiellaceae cause morbidity and mortality in humans and animals. For instance, Coxiella-like endosymbionts (CLEs) improve the reproductive success of ticks-a major disease vector, while Coxiella burnetii causes human Q fever, and uncharacterized coxiellae infect both animals and humans. To better understand the evolution of pathogenesis and symbiosis in this group of intracellular bacteria, we sequenced the genome of a CLE present in the soft tick Ornithodoros amblus (CLEOA) and compared it to the genomes of other bacteria in the order Legionellales. Our analyses confirmed that CLEOA is more closely related to C. burnetii, the human pathogen, than to CLEs in hard ticks, and showed that most clades of CLEs contain both endosymbionts and pathogens, indicating that several CLE lineages have evolved independently from pathogenic Coxiella. We also determined that the last common ancestorof CLEOA and C. burnetii was equipped to infect macrophages and that even though horizontal gene transfer (HGT) contributed significantly to the evolution of C. burnetii, most acquisition events occurred primarily in ancestors predating the CLEOA-C. burnetii divergence. These discoveries clarify the evolution of C. burnetii, which previously was assumed to have emerged when an avirulent tick endosymbiont recently gained virulence factors via HGT. Finally, we identified several metabolic pathways, including heme biosynthesis, that are likely critical to the intracellular growth of the human pathogen but not the tick symbiont, and show that the use of heme analog is a promising approach to controlling C. burnetii infections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evab108DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8290121PMC
July 2021

Ticks and tick-borne Rickettsia in El Salvador.

Exp Appl Acarol 2021 Apr 29;83(4):545-554. Epub 2021 Mar 29.

Department of Preventive Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo, Av. Prof. Orlando Marques de Paiva 87, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo, SP, 05508-270, Brazil.

From May to November 2013, ticks were collected from wild and domestic hosts that were sampled by convenience in different localities of El Salvador. Among 48 localities, in total 1181 ticks were collected from 200 vertebrate animals, comprising 13 species of wild hosts (amphibian, reptiles, mammals) and five species of domestic mammals, plus four samples from humans and four samples from the environment. Through morphological analysis (corroborated by molecular analyses in a few cases), the following ten tick species were identified: Amblyomma dissimile, Amblyomma mixtum, Amblyomma ovale, Amblyomma cf. parvum, Amblyomma sabanerae, Amblyomma scutatum, Dermacentor dissimilis, Dermacentor nitens, Rhipicephalus microplus, and Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato. Among a sample of 211 tick specimens tested for rickettsial infection by molecular methods, we identified: 'Candidatus Rickettsia colombianensi' in 10% of the A. dissimile ticks and 11% of the A. scutatum ticks; Rickettsia amblyommatis in 77% of the A. mixtum ticks, 50% of the A. cf. parvum ticks, 8% of the D. nitens ticks, and 11% of the Amblyomma spp. nymphs; and Rickettsia bellii in 3% of the A. dissimile ticks and 17% of the A. ovale ticks. The tick fauna of El Salvador is currently represented by 12 reported species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10493-021-00610-wDOI Listing
April 2021

Morphological descriptions of the nymph and adults of Ornithodoros clarki, the larva and nymph of Ornithodoros rondoniensis, with notes on their phylogenetic relationships.

Syst Parasitol 2021 Jun 26;98(3):231-246. Epub 2021 Mar 26.

Laboratorio de Vectores y enfermedades transmitidas, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de la República, CENUR Litoral Norte, Salto, ST, Uruguay.

Based on tick specimens collected recently in Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Brazil, we provide morphological descriptions of the nymph and adults of Ornithodoros clarki Jones & Clifford, 1972 from the first three countries, and the larva and nymph of Ornithodoros rondoniensis (Labruna, Terassini, Camargo, Brandão, Ribeiro & Estrada-Peña, 2008) from Brazil. Also, an analysis of mitochondrial 16S rDNA sequences was performed to analyze the phylogenetic relationships of these tick species. Adults and nymphs of O. clarki and O. rondoniensis are unique among the Argasidae family by presenting exceptionally large spiracular plates with small goblets, and an integument with smooth polygonal mammillae. However, these two species are morphologically distinct based on specific patterns of coxal folds, idiosomal mammillae and pilosity, and female genital flap. In contrast, the larvae of O. clarki and O. rondoniensis are morphologically identical, except for a general larger size of the former species; this slight difference is corroborated by Principal Component Analysis (PCA) by using 40 morphometric variables. Phylogenetic analyses including 16S rDNA partial sequences of different Ornithodoros taxa from Central and South America indicate that O. rondoniensis from Brazil diverges from O. clarki from Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. However, phylogenetic distance separating both alleged species is similar or slightly lower than the distances depicted for conspecific populations of a few other Ornithodoros species. Nonetheless, our primary criterion to maintain O. rondoniensis as a valid species is because its adult and nymphal stages do present distinct morphological traits that easily distinguish these postlarval stages from O. clarki.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11230-021-09973-5DOI Listing
June 2021

Ticks and rickettsial exposure in lowland tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) of three Brazilian biomes.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2021 05 7;12(3):101648. Epub 2021 Jan 7.

International Union for Conservation of Nature, Species Survival Commission, Tapir Specialist Group, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul 79046-150, Brazil; Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative, Institute for Ecological Research, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul 79046-150, Brazil; School of Environmental Conservation and Sustainability, Nazaré Paulista, São Paulo 12960-000, Brazil.

This study evaluated ticks and rickettsial exposure in 220 free-ranging lowland tapirs, Tapirus terrestris, from 2006 to 2018 in selected areas of three major biomes of Brazil - Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, and Cerrado. Overall, a total of 5970 tick specimens representing the following nine species were collected from tapirs: Amblyomma brasiliense, Amblyomma coelebs, Amblyomma dubitatum, Amblyomma ovale, Amblyomma parvum, Amblyomma sculptum, Amblyomma triste, Haemaphysalis juxtakochi, and Rhipicephalus microplus. Amblyomma sculptum was the most prevalent and abundant tick species in all three biomes; however, mean intensity values for A. sculptum were significantly lower in Atlantic Forest than in the Pantanal or Cerrado, and at the same time, statistically similar among tapirs from Pantanal and Cerrado. Contrastingly, mean intensity values for A. coelebs were significantly higher in the Atlantic Forest than in the other biomes. The remaining tick species were collected in lower numbers, or were exclusive for one biome, e.g., A. brasiliense and H. juxtakochi only in the Atlantic Forest. A total of 177 blood sera (123 individuals plus 54 recaptures) were collected from tapirs and tested for the presence of reactive antibodies to six Rickettsia species by immunofluorescence assay. Overall, 69% (9/13), 49% (62/126), and 66% (25/38) tapir sera from Atlantic Forest, Pantanal and Cerrado, respectively, were seroreactive to at least one Rickettsia species, with no significant difference between the three areas. Although many tapir sera reacted simultaneously to ≥2 Rickettsia species, Rickettsia parkeri elicited highest % seroprevalence and endpoint titers, and was incriminated as the possible agent involved in a homologous reaction in tapirs from the three biomes, where A. ovale was previously found infected by R. parkeri. In fact, seroconversion to R. parkeri was demonstrated in five tapirs that were captured at least twice during the study. This study demonstrated that tapirs were found to be constantly infested by several tick species in the Atlantic Forest, Pantanal and Cerrado biomes; however, the richness of tick infestations was concordant to the tick species known to be established in each biome. Under natural conditions, lowland tapirs were shown to be exposed to tick-borne spotted fever group rickettsiae.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2021.101648DOI Listing
May 2021

Survey of ticks and tick-borne agents in maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus) from a natural landscape in Brazil.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2021 03 17;12(2):101639. Epub 2020 Dec 17.

Departamento de Medicina Veterinária Preventiva e Saúde Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil. Electronic address:

This study evaluated ticks and tick-borne agents in 104 captures of the maned wolf Chrysocyon brachyurus (50 different individuals and 54 recaptures) in the Serra da Canastra National Park (SCNP), a Cerrado preserved area in southeastern Brazil, from 2005 to 2012. From the 104 capture events, a total of 1,206 ticks were collected on 94 occasions (90.4 %), and identified into five species: Amblyomma tigrinum (77.3 % of all collected ticks), Amblyomma sculptum (16.6 %), Amblyomma ovale (0.1 %), Amblyomma brasiliense (0.1 %), Rhipicephalus microplus (0.1 %), and Amblyomma spp. larvae (5.8 %). Molecular analyses of A. tigrinum adult ticks revealed the presence of 'Candidatus Rickettsia andeanae', Rickettsia parkeri sensu stricto, two different haplotypes of 'Ca. Midichloria sp.', and a Hepatozoon canis haplotype. Molecular analyses of maned wolf blood samples revealed two distinct haplotypes of Hepatozoon spp., one identical to the H. canis genotype that was detected in the A. tigrinum ticks, and a Hepatozoon americanum-like haplotype. None tick or blood samples yielded amplicons through PCR assays targeting the genera Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Babesia, Rangelia, Cytauxzoon, and Theileria. Maned wolf serum samples were tested by immunofluorescence assay against antigens of five Rickettsia species (R. parkeri, R. rickettsii, R. amblyommatis, R. rhipicephali, and R. bellii) and Ehrlichia canis. Among 78 serum samples (45 captures plus 33 recaptures), 74 (95 %) were reactive to at least one Rickettsia species, with R. parkeri eliciting the highest endpoint titers. Some maned wolves that were recaptured during the study were shown to seroconvert to R. parkeri. Serum-reactiveness to E. canis was detected in 36 % (16/45) maned wolves. During the study, general clinical signs of tick-borne diseases were not found in any of the captured animals, indicating that they were under a good health status in the SCNP, despite of been exposed to ticks (mostly A. tigrinum) and some tick-borne agents (Rickettsia, Hepatozoon, Ehrlichia). The results of the present study might represent baseline data for the conservation of the maned wolf in its natural habitat, which should be used to interpret further studies about ticks and tick-borne diseases in maned wolves within human-modified landscapes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101639DOI Listing
March 2021

Relapsing Fever Group Borreliae in Human-Biting Soft Ticks, Brazil.

Emerg Infect Dis 2021 01;27(1):322-324

We conducted a molecular survey for Borrelia spp. in Ornithodoros ticks previously reported as biting humans. We collected specimens in natural ecosystems and inside human dwellings in 6 states in Brazil. Phylogenetic analyses unveiled the occurrence of 4 putatively new species of relapsing fever group borreliae.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2701.200349DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7774541PMC
January 2021

Rickettsia parkeri in the Pampa biome of southern Brazil: Isolation, molecular characterization, and serological evidence of canine infection.

Vet Parasitol Reg Stud Reports 2020 12 15;22:100448. Epub 2020 Aug 15.

Departamento de Medicina Veterinária Preventiva e Saúde Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.

In this work we performed a field study in a spotted fever-endemic area of the Pampa biome in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil (Rosário do Sul municipality), with the aim to evaluate the serological status of dogs for spotted fever group (SFG) rickettsiae, to attempt the isolation rickettsiae from A. tigrinum ticks, and to further perform a multi-genic molecular characterization of the rickettsial isolate. For this purpose, we collected blood serum samples and ticks from 18 rural dogs during 2016-2017. By immunofluorescence assay, all 18 dogs (100%) reacted serologically to SFG rickettsiae, with highest endpoint titers to R. parkeri, suggesting that at least part of these dogs have been infected by R. parkeri. Among 23 ticks collected from the dogs (13 A. tigrinum and 10 Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu stricto), 46% (6/13) A. tigrinum contained DNA of R. parkeri, which was successfully isolated in Vero cell culture from one of these ticks. Partial sequences of five genes (gltA, ompA, virB4, dnaA, dnaK) and 3 intergenic spacers (mppA-purC, rrl-rrf-ITS, rpmE-tRNA) were generated from this rickettsial isolate, and were all 100% identical to corresponding sequences of R. parkeri s.s. We provide the first report of a viable isolate of R. parkeri from A. tigrinum, confirming that this isolate belongs to the strain R. parkeri s.s., as it has already been demonstrated for other two tick species of the Amblyomma maculatum species complex (A. maculatum and Amblyomma triste).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vprsr.2020.100448DOI Listing
December 2020

Novel Borrelia genotypes in bats from the Macaregua Cave, Colombia.

Zoonoses Public Health 2021 02 23;68(1):12-18. Epub 2020 Nov 23.

Department of Preventive Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechny, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.

Bats have been implicated as reservoirs of relapsing fever group spirochaetes since the beginning of the last century. Recently, bat-associated spirochaetes have been reported as human pathogens. In 1968, a spirochaete was detected in blood of the bat Natalus tumidirostris captured inside the Macaregua cave, Colombia. Data on this microorganism were never published again. The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence of Borrelia DNA in blood from bats of Macaregua cave. We performed molecular analyses using a genus-specific real-time PCR targeting the 16S rRNA to detect DNA of Borrelia in blood samples from 46 bats captured in the Macaregua cave. Positive samples were submitted to a battery of PCRs aiming to amply Borrelia 16S rRNA, flaB, glpQ, p66, ospC, clpA, clpX, nifS, pepX, pyrG, recG, rplB and uvrA genes. Seventeen samples were positive for Borrelia after real-time PCR. With the exception of flaB gene, attempts to amplify further loci were unsuccessful. Nucleotide and amino acid divergences of four flaB haplotypes characterized from blood of Carollia perspicillata showed Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (Bbsl) as the most closely related group. A phylogenetic tree including 74 sequences of the genus confirmed this trend, since Borrelia genotypes detected in bats from Macaregua formed a monophyletic group basally positioned to Bbsl. Our results suggest that Borrelia genotypes characterized from bats roosting in the Macaregua cave might constitute a new taxon within the genus. This is the first molecular characterization of a Borrelia sp. in Colombia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/zph.12789DOI Listing
February 2021

Life cycle of Ixodes schulzei (Acari: Ixodidae) in the laboratory, and demonstration of reproduction by parthenogenesis.

Parasitol Res 2021 Jan 13;120(1):9-13. Epub 2020 Nov 13.

Department of Preventive Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

Ixodes schulzei is an ixodid tick that parasitizes Cricetidae rodents, chiefly the South American water rat, Nectomys squamipes, in Brazil and Argentina. In the present study, we evaluated the life cycle of I. schulzei by exposing larvae and nymphs to feed on two rodent species, N. squamipes and Calomys callosus (large vesper mouse),while adult ticks were exposed to feed on N. squamipes. Off-host developmental periods were observed in an incubator at 27 °C, 95% relative humidity, and 0:24 (light:dark) regimen. Larvae and nymphs successfully fed on either C. callosus or N. squamipes. Mean larval and nymphal feeding periods were 8.8 and 8.7 days on N. squamipes and 8.5 and 9.7 days on C. callosus. The majority of engorged larvae (79.0-80.8%) and nymphs (67.0-86.0%) successfully molted to nymphs and adults, respectively. Mean premolt periods were 11.5-11.7 days for engorged larvae and 22.5-23.7 days for engorged nymphs. Only adult females emerged from engorged nymphs, regardless of host species, i.e., none of 120 engorged nymphs molted to male. Around 18% of the unfed females presented teratologies compatible with the metagynander type of gynandromorphism. Ixodes schulzei adult females successfully fed (mean feeding period, 9.4 days), oviposited, and presented high reproductive performance (high engorged weight, egg mass weight, and % egg mass hatching), in the absence of male ticks. Our results showed that I. schulzei successfully reproduces by parthenogenesis, and corroborate field data that indicate N. squamipes as the most important host for this tick species. The male of I. schulzei remains unknown.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00436-020-06970-3DOI Listing
January 2021

Rickettsia spp. in ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) from wild birds in Caldas, Colombia.

Acta Trop 2021 Jan 4;213:105733. Epub 2020 Nov 4.

Grupo de Investigación GEBIOME, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Caldas, Calle 65 No. 26-10 A.A. 275 Manizales, Caldas, Colombia. Electronic address:

Several bacteria belonging to the genus Rickettsia are recognized as causal agents of diseases in domestic and wild animals and humans. These bacteria are considered emerging or reemerging and are transmitted by ticks, fleas, and lice vectors. In recent decades, there have been reports of rickettsias in ticks of the genus Amblyomma, Ixodes, and Haemaphysalis collected from wild birds. Accordingly, birds play a plausible role in the transport and spread of ticks infected by Rickettsia spp. In this study, we performed molecular detection of Rickettsia species in ticks collected from wild birds in the department of Caldas, Colombia. We detected and identified Rickettsia amblyommatis, 'Candidatus Rickettsia colombianensi' and a Rickettsia sp. closely related to 'Candidatus Rickettsia tarasevichiae' and Rickettsia canadensis. This study contributes to the knowledge on infection by Rickettsia in ticks collected from wild birds in Colombia. We also provide the first reports of infection by R. amblyommatis in the genus Ixodes collected from wild birds in South America and the presence of Rickettsia at elevations above 3000 m a.s.l.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2020.105733DOI Listing
January 2021

Distribution modeling of Amblyomma rotundatum and Amblyomma dissimile in Brazil: estimates of environmental suitability.

Parasitol Res 2021 Mar 17;120(3):797-806. Epub 2020 Oct 17.

Department of Animal Parasitology, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil.

The number of reports of tick parasitism in amphibians and reptiles has increased over the past few years, including new host and location records for Amblyomma rotundatum and Amblyomma dissimile. However, knowledge of the geographical distribution remains incomplete, and in many regions of Brazil, the presence of these vectors has not been investigated. Several candidate models were built using a correlative maximum entropy approach, and best-fitting models were selected based on statistical significance, predictive ability, and complexity based on current climatic trends and future projected climate changes. Final models showed a good ability to discriminate A. rotundatum and A. dissimile current and future potential distributions. The entire country had higher predicted suitability for A. rotundatum while A. dissimile was mainly restricted to the Amazon and Pantanal biomes. A. rotundatum is a species with enormous potential for dissemination in the next decades, potentially through the legal and illegal transport of reptiles and amphibians. The proposed model is useful for targeting surveillance efforts increasing the efficiency and accuracy of future ecological research and tick management efforts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00436-020-06924-9DOI Listing
March 2021

Associations between wild birds and hard ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) in Colombia.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2020 11 3;11(6):101534. Epub 2020 Aug 3.

Grupo de Investigación GEBIOME, Departamento de Desarrollo Rural y Recursos Naturales, Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias, Universidad de Caldas, Calle 65 No. 26-10 A.A. 275 Manizales, Caldas, Colombia.

Ticks of the family Ixodidae are vectors of important pathogens in human and animal health. Birds are involved in long-distance transport and dispersion of hard ticks. Tick infestations on wild birds mostly involve species within the genera Amblyomma, Ixodes, and Haemaphysalis. In Colombia, tick research is scarce and there are no studies to date about the associations between wild birds and ticks. We aimed to contribute to the knowledge of the associations between wild birds and hard ticks based on the collection of 2314 wild birds belonging to 29 families in Caldas - Colombia between 2015 and 2019. In total, we collected 133 hard ticks that were found parasitizing 78 birds representing 45 species and 14 wild bird families. We report at least seven tick species on birds confirmed by morphological and molecular methods: Amblyomma longirostre, Amblyomma varium, Amblyomma dissimile, Amblyomma ovale, Amblyomma nodosum, Amblyomma calcaratum and Haemaphysalis leporispalustris. In addition, we recorded three Ixodes species, which yielded DNA sequences that did not have high identity (≤ 95 %) to any species in GenBank. Ticks were found infesting resident and migratory boreal birds. This is the first study addressing the associations between wild birds and hard ticks in Colombia. We describe new associations between birds and ticks in the Americas.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101534DOI Listing
November 2020

Molecular detection of a Borrelia sp. in nymphs of Amblyomma brasiliense ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) from Iguaçu National Park, Brazil, genetically related to Borrelia from Ethiopia and Côte d'Ivoire.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2020 11 25;11(6):101519. Epub 2020 Jul 25.

Laboratory of Microorganisms of Cerrado (Savannah), Department of Microbiology, Instituto De Ciências Biomédicas, Universidade Federal De Uberlândia (UFU), Uberlândia, Brazil. Electronic address:

Gram-negative spirochetes of the genus Borrelia are transmitted to vertebrate hosts through the tick bite during blood intake. Pathogenic Borrelia species may cause relapsing fever or Lyme borreliosis in humans. Our study aimed to molecularly detect and characterize bacteria of this genus in ticks collected in the Iguaçu National Park, located in southern Brazil. Ticks were collected from the environment (free living) and from hosts from May 2015 to July 2017. In total, 829 ticks were tested, being 741 from the environment and 88 from hosts; 128 ticks were larvae, 523 were nymphs, and 178 were adults (80 males and 98 females). The species identified were: Amblyomma brasiliense (42.9 %), Amblyomma coelebs (16.8 %), Amblyomma sp. (15.0 %), Amblyomma incisum (10.3 %), Amblyomma ovale (8.7 %), Haemaphysalis juxtakochi (5.5 %), Rhipicephalus microplus (0.5 %), Amblyomma longirostre (0.2 %), and Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato (0.1 %). DNA extraction was performed with pools of larvae or nymphs, or individually with adults, for a total of 394 samples. The PCR technique used to detect Borrelia DNA was performed with two rounds of amplification reactions targeting a segment of the flagellin B gene (flaB). Amplification occurred in only one DNA sample, which was obtained from nymphs of A. brasiliense collected from the vegetation of a trail. The nucleotide sequence analysis revealed 90.8 % identity to a sequence of Borrelia sp. from Côte d'Ivoire, and 89.1 % identity to a sequence from Ethiopia. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the Borrelia sequence from A. brasiliense was distinct from the Borrelia species of the groups belonging to Lyme borreliosis, relapsing fever and the one associated with reptile and echidna as hosts. The sequence is likely from a putative new species of Borrelia and was detected for the first time in A. brasiliense ticks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101519DOI Listing
November 2020

Records of ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) on humans and distribution of spotted-fever cases and its tick vectors in Paraná State, southern Brazil.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2020 11 10;11(6):101510. Epub 2020 Jul 10.

Vector-Borne Diseases Laboratory, Departamento de Medicina Veterinária, Universidade Federal do Paraná - UFPR, Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil; Global One Health initiative, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA. Electronic address:

Brazilian spotted fever (BSF) is the deadliest rickettsiosis in the world. Although the epidemiology of the disease has been established in Brazil, there are still limited data available on distribution of tick vectors and tick species parasitizing humans in the country, particularly in Paraná State. The State of Paraná is located in the southern region of the country and is covered by two biomes: Atlantic rainforest and Cerrado. Thus, the aims of this study were i) to map the distribution of SF tick vectors, ii) to describe and map the distribution of human parasitism by ticks, and iii) to map the distribution of fatal and non-fatal spotted fever (SF) cases in Paraná State, southern Brazil. Data were reviewed and compiled from previous published reports, and also from two scientific collections of Paraná State. SF cases were retrieved from the Brazilian Notifiable Diseases Information System. A total of 50 cases of human parasitism by ticks were recorded, with a total of 64 (22 males, 12 females, 30 nymphs) ticks collected. The following 12 tick species were identified: Amblyomma aureolatum, Amblyomma brasiliense, Amblyomma calcaratum, Amblyomma dubitatum, Amblyomma incisum, Amblyomma longirostre, Amblyomma ovale, Amblyomma parkeri, Amblyomma scalpturatum, Amblyomma sculptum, Haemaphysalis juxtakochi and Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato (s.l.). The most prevalent tick species associated to cases of human parasitism were A. sculptum (13/50; 26 %), A. aureolatum (10/50; 20 %), A. brasiliense (5/50; 10 %), A. ovale (5/50; 10 %) and A. parkeri (4/50; 8%). A total of 51 non-fatal and five fatal SF cases were recorded. Data from this study highlights the need for monitoring ticks parasitizing humans aiming early detection of tick-borne diseases cases, particularly BSF in Paraná State, southern Brazil.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101510DOI Listing
November 2020

Detection of Dermacentor andersoni (Acari: Ixodidae) in Brazil on a Human Traveler Returning from the United States.

J Med Entomol 2021 03;58(2):947-949

Department of Preventive Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

Only one previous record of an exotic tick on a Brazilian traveler has been reported. Here, we report the detection of Dermacentor andersoni (Stiles) in Brazil while attached to a human traveler returning from the United States. This report is the fifth record of D. andersoni as an exotic tick, and the second record of an exotic tick on a South American traveler.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jme/tjaa204DOI Listing
March 2021

Comparative Analysis of Infection by Sheila Smith and Taiaçu Strains in a Murine Model.

Pathogens 2020 Sep 10;9(9). Epub 2020 Sep 10.

Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a life-threatening tick-borne disease caused by , which is widely distributed throughout the Americas. Over 4000 cases of RMSF are recorded annually in the United States, while only around 100 cases are reported in Brazil. Conversely, while case fatality rates in the United States oscillate around 5%, in Brazil they can surpass 70%, suggesting that differences in tick vectoring capacity, population sensitivity, and/or variability in virulence of the rickettsial strains may exist. In this study, we compared the susceptibility of C3H/HeN mice to two highly virulent strains of , one from the United States (Sheila Smith) and the other from Brazil (Taiaçu). Animals inoculated with the Taiaçu strain succumbed to infection earlier and exhibited severe histological lesions in both liver and spleen sooner than mice infected with the Sheila Smith strain. These differences in survival and signs of the disease are not related to a greater proliferation of the Taiaçu strain, as there were no significant differences in the rickettsial load in mice tissues inoculated with either strain. The present study is the first step to experimentally assess differences in fatality rates of RMSF in two different regions of the American continent.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens9090744DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7557639PMC
September 2020

Maintenance of the infection by Rickettsia amblyommatis in Amblyomma cajennense sensu stricto ticks and evaluation of vector competence.

Exp Appl Acarol 2020 Sep 31;82(1):151-159. Epub 2020 Aug 31.

Departamento de Medicina Veterinária Preventiva e Saúde Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Prof. Orlando Marques de Paiva, 87, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo, SP, 05508-270, Brazil.

Rickettsia amblyommatis has been reported infecting various tick species throughout the western hemisphere, including Amblyomma cajennense sensu stricto (s.s.). The present study aimed to evaluate whether R. amblyommatis can be maintained by transovarial transmission and transstadial passage in A. cajennense s.s. ticks, and whether these ticks are competent vectors of this rickettsial agent. We selected engorged females that were naturally infected or uninfected by R. amblyommatis, and reared their offspring (infected and control groups, respectively). Immature ticks were allowed to feed on guinea pigs, whereas adults fed on rabbits. All stages and individuals of each generation of the infected group yielded rickettsial DNA, which was not detected in any tick from the control group. No host from the control group seroconverted to R. amblyommatis. Among 16 guinea pigs and eight rabbits infested with R. amblyommatis-infected ticks, only one guinea pig seroconverted to R. amblyommatis. Some unfed adult ticks of the infected group were dissected, and DNA was extracted from their salivary glands and from their carcasses. DNA of R. amblyommatis was detected in all carcasses, but not in the salivary glands. Results of this study indicate very low vector competence of A. cajennense s.s. for R. amblyommatis. Previous studies reported domestic animals with high titers to R. amblyommatis in areas where these animals are naturally infested chiefly by A. cajennense s.s. ticks. One may consider that the vector competence of A. cajennense s.s. for R. amblyommatis could vary among tick populations and/or rickettsial strains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10493-020-00537-8DOI Listing
September 2020

Host movement and time of year influence tick parasitism in Pantanal birds.

Exp Appl Acarol 2020 Sep 27;82(1):125-135. Epub 2020 Aug 27.

Faculdade de Ciências da Educação e Saúde, Centro Universitário de Brasília, Brasília, DF, Brazil.

Ticks are among the best studied parasitic groups as they spread important pathogens of medical and veterinary importance worldwide. Migratory birds can play an important role in transporting ticks infected with pathogens across wide geographic regions. It is therefore important to understand which factors promote tick parasitism rates across their avian hosts and the associated potential for disease spread. Here, we identified the host attributes of infestation probability of ticks from the genus Amblyomma in 955 birds from Pantanal, Brazil. Infestation rates exhibited considerable variation across the 129 avian species surveyed and were explained by both host ecological traits and evolutionary history. The probability of an individual bird being infested with immature ticks (larvae and/or nymphs) was higher across resident bird species that forage at ground level and during the wet season. Bird species that feed on vertebrates were less likely to be infested by ticks. Other ecological traits known to promote tick exposure (age, body mass, social behavior, and sex) did not predict infestation probability. Our findings demonstrate that tick occurrence in Pantanal birds is determined by avian host attributes, but tick occurrence throughout the year constrains exposure to host-seeking ticks. Moreover, the ecology of the avian host might prevent the potential spread of tick-borne diseases outside Pantanal as migratory hosts are likely less infested by ticks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10493-020-00530-1DOI Listing
September 2020

Typhus Group Rickettsiosis, Brazilian Amazon.

Emerg Infect Dis 2020 09;26(9):2294-2296

Rickettsia rickettsii infection is the only rickettsiosis included in the list of reportable diseases in Brazil, where typhus group rickettsioses, mainly murine typhus, have been underreported. We report a case of typhus group rickettsiosis with unique ecologic particularities in a patient from the Brazilian Amazon, where, to our knowledge, rickettsioses have not been reported.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2609.201305DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7454102PMC
September 2020

Habitat selection in natural and human-modified landscapes by capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), an important host for Amblyomma sculptum ticks.

PLoS One 2020 20;15(8):e0229277. Epub 2020 Aug 20.

Departamento de Ciências da Natureza, Matemática e Educação, Laboratório de Fauna, Universidade Federal de São Carlos, Araras, São Paulo, Brasil.

Human activities are changing landscape structure and function globally, affecting wildlife space use, and ultimately increasing human-wildlife conflicts and zoonotic disease spread. Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) are linked to conflicts in human-modified landscapes (e.g. crop damage, vehicle collision), as well as the spread and amplification of Brazilian spotted fever (BSF), the most human-lethal tick-borne disease in the world. Even though it is essential to understand the link between capybaras, ticks and BSF, many knowledge gaps still exist regarding the effects of human disturbance in capybara space use. Here, we analyzed diurnal and nocturnal habitat selection strategies of capybaras across natural and human-modified landscapes using resource selection functions (RSF). Selection for forested habitats was higher across human-modified landscapes, mainly during day- periods, when compared to natural landscapes. Across natural landscapes, capybaras avoided forests during both day- and night periods. Water was consistently selected across both landscapes, during day- and nighttime. Distance to water was also the most important variable in predicting capybara habitat selection across natural landscapes. Capybaras showed slightly higher preferences for areas near grasses/shrubs across natural landscapes, and distance to grasses/shrubs was the most important variable in predicting capybara habitat selection across human-modified landscapes. Our results demonstrate human-driven variation in habitat selection strategies by capybaras. This behavioral adjustment across human-modified landscapes may be related to increases in A. sculptum density, ultimately affecting BSF.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0229277PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7444575PMC
September 2020

Free-living ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) in the Iguaçu National Park, Brazil: Temporal dynamics and questing behavior on vegetation.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2020 09 25;11(5):101471. Epub 2020 May 25.

Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Uberlândia (UFU), Uberlândia, Minas Gerais 38400-902, Brazil. Electronic address:

Basic knowledge of species, ecological preferences and behavior of ticks in preserved rainforests are scanty. We herein describe species richness, seasonal activity, altitude influence and questing height of ticks along 3375 m of animal trails within the largest remain of inland Atlantic rainforest in Brazil, the Iguaçu National Park (INP). Altogether, 2954 ticks from nine tick species were collected; Amblyomma brasiliense Aragão (49.09% of the specimens), Amblyomma coelebs Neumann (29.08%), Amblyomma incisum Neumann (12.49%), Haemaphysalis juxtakochi Cooley (5.21%), Amblyomma ovale Koch (2.64%), Amblyomma longirostre Koch (0.20%), Ixodes fuscipes Fonseca (0.17%), Ixodes loricatus Neumann (0.07%) and Amblyomma dubitatum Neumann (0.03%) (Ixodida: Ixodidae). There was an evident seasonal influence on tick host-questing activity, with each tick stage prevailing in a season before the following one, and a general trend of one tick generation per year. Adult tick questing height mode on vegetation showed a correspondence between tick species and preferred host size and height. Adult ticks quested higher than immatures, but several larval clusters were found high enough to seek for large-sized hosts as well. Nymphal and adult tick questing height increased significantly at higher altitudes within the park. Amblyomma incisum and A. coelebs were more abundant at higher and lower altitudes, respectively. The knowledge on tick species richness, ecological preferences and behavior herein obtained provides baseline information to understand tick-borne disease epidemiology occurring at landscapes under a strong anthropogenic impact.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101471DOI Listing
September 2020

New records and phylogenetic position of Ornithodoros knoxjonesi (Ixodida: Argasidae).

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2020 09 22;11(5):101473. Epub 2020 May 22.

Laboratorio de Vectores y enfermedades transmitidas, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de la República, CENUR Litoral Norte - Salto, Rivera 1350, CP 50000 Salto, ST, Uruguay.

Larvae of Ornithodoros knoxjonesi collected at five localities in three countries were studied using morphological and molecular methods to confirm this species' taxonomic validity. The larva of O. knoxjonesi is characterized as having 14 pairs of dorsal setae, eight pairs of ventral setae, plus a posteromedian seta; an elongate dorsal plate, tapered anteriorly; and a hypostome that is narrower near its midlength, with posteriorly projecting denticles. Although the larvae of O. knoxjonesi and Ornithodoros peropteryx are morphologically quite similar, the larva of O. knoxjonesi is characterized as having dorsal setae that are wider at the tip than at the base, while in O. peropteryx these setae are narrower at the tip than at the base; moreover, the dorsal setae are shorter in O. knoxjonesi (Al 0.037-0.065; Pl 0.035-0.059) than in O. peropteryx (Al 0.120-0.132; Pl 0.080-0.096). These species also differ in that O. knoxjonesi possesses only the Al seta on tarsus I, whereas O. peropteryx has both Al and Pl setae. And while both species have two setae on coxae I-III, in O. knoxjonesi the anterior seta is tapering and smooth and the posterior is fringed, while both setae are fringed in O. peropteryx. At the molecular level, based on a maximum likelihood analysis using approximately 400 bp of the mitochondrial 16S rDNA gene, O. knoxjonesi appears as an independent lineage, separated from O. peropteryx by a genetic distance of 16.28 %. Balantiopteryx plicata is a common host of O. knoxjonesi; however, in this work we report Pteronotus personatus and Pteronotus gymnonotus as new hosts of this tick species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101473DOI Listing
September 2020

Ornithodoros cerradoensis n. sp. (Acari: Argasidae), a member of the Ornithodoros talaje (Guérin-Méneville, 1849) group, parasite of rodents in the Brazilian Savannah.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2020 09 21;11(5):101497. Epub 2020 Jun 21.

Departamento de Medicina Veterinária Preventiva e Saúde Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Prof. Orlando Marques de Paiva, 87, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo, SP, 05508-270, Brazil.

Ornithodoros cerradoensis n. sp. is described from field-collected and laboratory reared nymphs, males, females, and larvae parasitizing the rodents Cavia aperea and Thrichomys sp. in the Brazilian Savannah. This new species is morphologically and genetically related with the Ornithodoros talaje group and can be separated from other Neotropical species using the following combination of characters: larva with 18 pairs of setae on dorsum (seven anterolateral, four central and seven posterolateral), hypostome with median dentition 2/2; adults provided with large mammillae; dorsal disks surrounded by bulked marginal ridges delimiting barely pebbled areas; three disks in the anterolateral file, and median disk not merging with the posteromedian file. Feeding assays in the laboratory demonstrated that (1) larvae of O. cerradoensis are slow-feeders (∼6 days), (2) first nymphal instar (N1) molts to second instar (N2) without feeding, and (3) N2 and third nymphal instar (N3) engorge rapidly (minutes). With the exception of Ornithodoros hasei nymphs that depict flattened bodies, O. cerradoensis N1, N2, and N3 highly resemble homologous instars of other species in O. talaje sensu lato, therefore are not suitable for morphological comparisons within the group. In addition to morphological signature of larvae and adults that separate this new species; results of cross-mating attempts between O. cerradoensis and Ornithodoros guaporensis a morphologically and phylogenetically closely related species that also parasitizes rodents in the Brazilian Savannah; a Principal Component Analysis using larval characters; and a phylogenetic analysis using mitochondrial markers, support O. cerradoensis as an independent lineage within the Ornithodorinae.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101497DOI Listing
September 2020

Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) as amplifying hosts of Rickettsia rickettsii to Amblyomma sculptum ticks: Evaluation during primary and subsequent exposures to R. rickettsii infection.

Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2020 09 7;11(5):101463. Epub 2020 May 7.

Department of Preventive Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

Rickettsia rickettsii is the agent of Brazilian spotted fever (BSF), the most lethal tick-borne disease in the western hemisphere. Amblyomma sculptum is the main vector of R. rickettsii in southeastern Brazil. Capybaras act as primary hosts for this tick species, and as amplifying hosts for R. rickettsii, creating new infected lineages of A. sculptum in BSF-endemic areas. In a recent study, we demonstrated that capybaras successively exposed to R. rickettsii-infected A. sculptum ticks developed a mean rickettsemic period of 9.2 days during primary infection, but no rickettsemia during subsequent expositions, when capybaras were immune to R. rickettsii. During the primary and subsequent infections, capybaras were also infested with uninfected A. sculptum ticks. These infestations compose the present study, which aimed to evaluate: (i) if either rickettsemic or non-rickettsemic capybaras could serve as infection sources of R. rickettsii for A. sculptum larvae and nymphs; (ii) the vector competence of the subsequent nymphs and adults (molted from the engorged ticks collected from capybaras); and (iii) if there were R. rickettsii-acquisition by uninfected ticks co-feeding with infected ticks on immune capybaras (without rickettsemia). Through experimental infection of capybaras with R. rickettsii via tick feeding, simulating a natural condition, we demonstrated that primarily infected capybaras developed rickettsemia that resulted in successful acquisition feeding of larvae and nymphs of A. sculptum, since part of these ticks maintained R. rickettsii transstadially, and the resultant molted ticks (either nymphs or adults) successfully transmitted the bacterium by feeding on susceptible rabbits. Contrastingly, all rabbit infestations with ticks derived from acquisition feeding on R. rickettsii-immune capybaras (including when acquisition ticks fed in direct contact with donor ticks) evidenced absence of R. rickettsii transmission due to lack of clinical signs and antibody response in those rabbits. Our results indicate that capybaras could serve as R. rickettsii-amplifying hosts for A. sculptum ticks only during the capybara's primary infection, but not during subsequent infections on immune capybaras. Finally, the probable co-feeding nonsystemic transmission of R. rickettsii seems to be irrelevant in the context of BSF epidemiology, in areas where capybaras are incriminated as main amplifying hosts of R. rickettsii for A. sculptum ticks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101463DOI Listing
September 2020

Immature ticks on wild birds and the molecular detection of a novel Rickettsia strain in the Ibitipoca State Park, southeastern Brazil.

Exp Appl Acarol 2020 Jul 8;81(3):457-467. Epub 2020 Jul 8.

Departamento de Parasitologia Animal, Universidade Federal Rural Do Rio de Janeiro, Seropédica, RJ, Brazil.

Birds are recognized hosts of ticks, especially for the immature stages which may harbor various species and strains of Rickettsia. To explore landscapes inhabited by birds and their ticks would expand the knowledge on host-parasite relationships and the rickettsiae. The aim of this paper was to record the diversity of ticks collected on wild birds and assess the phylogenetic position of a novel Rickettsia strain detected in immature ticks. Birds were captured in the Ibitipoca State Park, located in the Minas Gerais state, southeastern Brazil, as part of a long-term research project on the ecology of ticks, birds and Rickettsia. We found three tick species parasitizing birds: Amblyomma aureolatum (63 larvae, 10 nymphs), Haemaphysalis leporispalustris (28 larvae, seven nymphs) and Amblyomma romarioi (27 larvae). Among these, A. aureolatum was the most abundant species including 54% (73/135) of the collected ticks. New tick-host records were: A. romarioi on Turdus amaurochalinus and H. leporispalustris on Thamnophilus caerulescens, Saltator similis and Zonotrichia capensis. Of the 82 ticks tested for Rickettsia spp. by PCR, two larvae (2.5%) of A. romarioi were infected with 'Candidatus Rickettsia paranaensis', a novel putative Rickettsia species closely related to Rickettsia africae, Rickettsia sibirica and Rickettsia parkeri, as corroborated by our phylogenetic analysis. Finally, we present a list of all records of immature stages of H. leporispalustris on passerine birds in Brazil.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10493-020-00521-2DOI Listing
July 2020
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