Molecular survey of Coxiella burnetii in wildlife and ticks at wildlife–livestock interfaces in Kenya
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Coxiella burnetii is the causative agent of Q fever, a zoonotic disease of public health importance. The role of wildlife and their ticks in the epidemiology of C. burnetii in Kenya is unknown. This study analysed the occurrence and prevalence of the pathogen in wildlife and their ticks at two unique wildlife–livestock interfaces of Laikipia and Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR) with the aim to determine the potential risk of transmission to livestock and humans. Blood from 79 and 73 animals in Laikipia and MMNR, respectively, and 756 and 95 ixodid ticks in each of the areas, respectively, was analysed. Ticks were pooled before analyses into 137 and 29 samples in Laikipia and MMNR, respectively, of one to eight non-engorged ticks according to species and animal host. Real-time PCR amplifying the repetitive insertion element IS1111a of the transposase gene was used to detect C. burnetii DNA. Although none of the animals and ticks from MMNR tested positive, ticks from Laikipia had an overall pooled prevalence of 2.92% resulting in a maximum-likelihood estimate of prevalence of 0.54%, 95% CI 0.17–1.24. Ticks positive for C. burnetii DNA belonged to the genus Rhipicephalus at a pooled prevalence of 2.96% (maximum-likelihood estimate of prevalence of 0.54%, 95% CI 0.17–1.26). These ticks were Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, R. pulchellus and R. evertsi at pooled prevalence of 3.77, 3.03 and 2.04%, respectively. The presence of C. burnetii in ticks suggests circulation of the pathogen in Laikipia and demonstrates they may play a potential role in the epidemiology of Q fever in this ecosystem. The findings warrant further studies to understand the presence of C. burnetii in domestic animals and their ticks within both study areas.
KeywordsQ fever Coxiella burnetii Kenya Wildlife
The authors acknowledge facilitation for field sample collection by the Head of Veterinary Services Department at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Elsie Wambui, Mathew Mutinda, Campaign Limo and Antoinette Miyunga all of KWS Veterinary Services Department assisted in sample collection and laboratory work and Joseph Mukeka of the KWS Geographic Information Systems (GIS) section helped in creating the map.
The authors contributed equally in the study conception and design, data collection and analysis and preparation of the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.
The Research Authorisation Committee of KWS, the government agency responsible for wildlife conservation and management, approved the study (Approval Ref: KWS/BRM/5001). Animals were immobilised following protocols recommended by McKenzie (1993) by experienced personnel to ensure a humane exercise as much as possible following applicable KWS guidelines on wildlife veterinary practice (2006).
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