Ticks, fleas and endosymbionts in the ectoparasite fauna of the black-eared opossum Dipelphis aurita in Brazil

  • Marcos Antônio Bezerra-SantosEmail author
  • Bárbara Cristina Félix Nogueira
  • Ricardo Seiti Yamatogi
  • Rafael Antonio Nascimento Ramos
  • Juliana Arena Galhardo
  • Artur Kanadani Campos


Ticks and fleas are essential vectors of pathogens that affect humans and animals, and among their hosts, synanthropic animals such as the black-eared opossum, Didelphis aurita, play a role in public health due to their ability to move between urban centers and forested areas in Brazil. This study aimed to assess the ectoparasite fauna of D. aurita, as well as the presence of pathogens and endosymbionts in ticks and fleas. Opossums (n = 58) captured in Tomahawk livetraps were examined for ectoparasites, and their blood sampled for further analysis. Additionally, spleen samples were collected in individuals found dead. Samples were PCR screened for Rickettsia spp., Borrelia spp., Anaplasmataceae, and Babesia spp. Two tick species were morphologically identified as Ixodes loricatus 24/58 (41.4%) and Amblyomma sculptum 1/58 (1.7%). For fleas, Ctenocephalides felis was detected in 60.3% (35/58) of the animals, and Xenopsylla cheopis in 5.2% (3/58). PCR analysis detected Anaplasmataceae DNA in 34% (16/47) of pooled samples of C. felis, and in 66.7% (2/3) pooled samples of X. cheopis. Sequence analysis revealed Wolbachia pipientis symbiont in all positive samples. Tick, blood and spleen samples were all negative for the microorganisms assessed. These findings suggest that these arthropods circulate among wildlife and urban environments, which may implicate in their participation in the cycle of zoonotic pathogens among opossums, humans and companion animals.


Opossums Ticks Fleas Vectors Anaplasmataceae 



Authors would like to thank the Professors Dr. Marcelo Bahia Labruna and Dr. Adivaldo Henrique da Fonseca who kindly donated the positive controls for Rickettsia and Borrelia spp., respectively. Secondly, authors acknowledge Professor Gisele Mendes Lessa del Giúdice for providing traps to capture the animals used in our study. Finally, the authors thank the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG), and the Graduate Program in Veterinary Medicine of the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV) for the support provided.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures herein performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the study was conducted, as approved by the Ethics Committee for Animal Experimentation (ECAE) of the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (license number: 80/2018) and by the Biodiversity Information and Authorization System (SISBIO) of the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) under the license number 64930-1.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcos Antônio Bezerra-Santos
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bárbara Cristina Félix Nogueira
    • 1
  • Ricardo Seiti Yamatogi
    • 1
  • Rafael Antonio Nascimento Ramos
    • 2
  • Juliana Arena Galhardo
    • 3
  • Artur Kanadani Campos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Veterinary MedicineFederal University of ViçosaViçosaBrazil
  2. 2.Academic Unit of GaranhunsFederal Rural University of PernambucoGaranhunsBrazil
  3. 3.Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal ScienceFederal University of Mato Grosso Do SulCampo GrandeBrazil

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