A relapsing fever Borrelia and spotted fever Rickettsia in ticks from an Andean valley, central Chile
In humans, emerging infectious diseases are mostly zoonoses with ticks playing an important role as vectors. Tick-borne relapsing fever Borrelia and spotted fever Rickettsia occur in endemic foci along tropical and subtropical regions of the globe. However, both are widely neglected etiologic agents. In this study, we performed molecular analyses in order to assess the presence of Borrelia and Rickettsia DNA in ticks infesting small-mammals within a National Reserve located in the Andes Mountains, central Chile. While hard ticks were negative for the presence of both agents, sequences of four rickettsial (gltA, htrA, ompA, ompB) and two borrelial (16S rRNA and flaB) genes were obtained from larvae of an Ornithodoros sp. morphologically related with Ornithodoros atacamensis. Phylogenetic analyses indicated that the detected Borrelia and Rickettsia spp. belong to the relapsing fever and spotted fever groups, respectively. Moreover, the agents formed monophyletic clades with Rickettsia amblyommatis and “Candidatus Borrelia johnsonii.” As positive ticks parasitize rodents within a highly visited National Reserve where outdoor activities are of common practice, the risk for human parasitism should not be discarded.
KeywordsTick-borne diseases Ornithodoros “Candidatus Borrelia johnsonii” Rickettsia amblyommatis Chile
We thank Hugo Durán for his valuable help during fieldwork and CONAF personnel for logistic support within the RCNR. Fieldwork and the collection of samples were funded by the “Fondo Científico del Alto Cachapoal versión 7 – Pacific Hydro Chile”. Laboratory work was funded by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP). SML was funded by FAPESP (Grant #2018/02521-1). DFC was funded by the Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (CONICYT, Grant BCH #72170436).
SML and MBL conceived the study. SML, DFC, and MA made vertebrate capture and tick collection in the field. SML identified ticks, performed laboratory work, and drafted the manuscript. SML and AM performed phylogenetic analyses. All authors contributed to reviewing the manuscript, read, and approved the final version.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
Animal captures, handling, and the collection of biological samples have been approved by the “Corporación Nacional Forestal” (CONAF) and by permit 417/2018 given by the “Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero” (SAG), Chile. All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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