Parasitology Research

, Volume 115, Issue 12, pp 4691–4699 | Cite as

Coxiella symbionts are widespread into hard ticks

  • Erik Machado-Ferreira
  • Vinicius F. Vizzoni
  • Emilia Balsemão-Pires
  • Leonardo Moerbeck
  • Gilberto S. Gazeta
  • Joseph Piesman
  • Carolina M. Voloch
  • Carlos A. G. SoaresEmail author
Short Communication


Ticks are blood-feeding arthropods and can harbor several bacteria, including the worldwide zoonotic disease Q-fever agent Coxiella burnetii. Recent studies have reported a distinct group of Coxiella mostly associated with Ixodidae ticks, including the primary endosymbionts of Amblyomma americanum. In the present work, a screening for Coxiella infection was performed by 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) gene analyses in 293 tick samples of 15 different species sampled worldwide, including Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, and China. Different Coxiella phylotypes were identified, and these putative symbiotic bacteria were detected in ten different Amblyomma tick species. Approximately 61 % of Rhipicephalus sanguineus and ∼37 % of Rhipicephalus microplus DNA samples were positive for Coxiella. Sequence analysis and phylogenetic reconstruction grouped all the detected Coxiella with Coxiella-like symbionts from different Ixodidae ticks. This well-defined clade clearly excludes known phylotypes of C. burnetii pathogens and other Coxiella spp. detected in different environmental samples and other invertebrate hosts.


Coxiella symbionts Amblyomma ticks Ixodidae Coxiella burnetii 



The authors would like to thank to the Instituto Nacional do Câncer/Divisão de Genética (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) for sequencing support, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DVBID, Fort Collins, CO, USA) for sampling support, and Ms. Maria de Fátima S. Cardoso, Mr. Luiz F. P. Frade and Mr. Sílvio P. Nascimento for their excellent technical assistance. This work was partially supported by the Brazilian agency FAPERJ—Rio de Janeiro (INST-2015/1 Proc. 210.202/2016).

Supplementary material

436_2016_5230_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (4.3 mb)
ESM 1 Supplementary Figure 1 PCR-RFLP analyses of Coxiella-like symbiont 16S rDNA PCR of 16S rDNA amplicons digested with AluI, TaqI, or XbaI. (A) AluI digestion profile of PCR products obtained from A. oblongoguttatum samples lane 1, non-digested amplicon; lanes 2 and 3, restriction products of two Coxiella-positive samples. (B) TaqI digestion profile of PCR products obtained from R. microplus samples lane 1, non-digested amplicon; lane 2, Coxiella sp.–R. microplus; lanes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 restriction products of six Coxiella-positive samples. (C) XbaI digestion profile of PCR products obtained from R. sanguineus samples lane 1, non-digested amplicon; lane 2, Coxiella sp.–R. sanguineus; lane 4, Coxiella sp.–R. sanguineus Am 35; lanes 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 restriction products of ten Coxiella-positive samples. Arrows indicate the expected bands for all digested samples Coxiella-specific primer set as described in the Methods. Digestions were run in 15 % agarose gels. (D) Digestion profile predicted for Coxiella 16 rDNA PCR amplicons using the Nebcutter ( The GenBank accession number is presented in parenthesis and the approximately expected band size in base pairs (bp). Sequences obtained in the present work are indicated with asterisks. (PDF 4433 kb)
436_2016_5230_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (13 kb)
ESM 2 TableS1 Detailed samples distribution for the Amblyomma ticks collected from diferent areas of Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, and China. (XLSX 12 kb)
436_2016_5230_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (12 kb)
ESM 3 TableS2 Detailed samples distribution for the ticks R. sanguineus, R. microplus, and D. nitens collected in different areas of Brazil. (XLSX 12 kb)
436_2016_5230_MOESM4_ESM.xlsb (18 kb)
ESM 4 TableS3 Sequences accession codes for reference Rickettsiella spp. and Coxiella spp. 16S rDNA. (XLSB 17 kb)
436_2016_5230_MOESM5_ESM.xlsx (13 kb)
ESM 5 TableS4 Identity for the Coxiella nucleotide sequences obtained in the present work and previously described tick associated Coxiella or pathogenic C. burnetii. (XLSX 12 kb)
436_2016_5230_MOESM6_ESM.xlsx (11 kb)
ESM 6 TableS5 Sequences representing additional phylogenetic clades shown as collapsed triangles in the Fig. 1. (XLSX 11 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erik Machado-Ferreira
    • 1
  • Vinicius F. Vizzoni
    • 1
  • Emilia Balsemão-Pires
    • 1
  • Leonardo Moerbeck
    • 2
  • Gilberto S. Gazeta
    • 2
  • Joseph Piesman
    • 3
  • Carolina M. Voloch
    • 1
  • Carlos A. G. Soares
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Genética, Instituto de BiologiaUniversidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto Oswaldo Cruz–FioCruzRio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Bioagricultural Sciences & Pest ManagementColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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