Molecular survey of ITS1 spacer and Rickettsia infection in human flea, Pulex irritans

  • Mohammad Bagher Ghavami
  • Habibeh Mirzadeh
  • Jamshid Mohammadi
  • Asghar Fazaeli
Original Paper


The human flea is an important ectoparasite causing serious public health problems worldwide. Planning and monitoring the control programs against this vector require the knowledge of population structure and vector competence. This study was carried out to identify molecular structure of internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) of ribosomal gene and its capability in the survey of Pulex irritans populations as well as to investigate Rickettsia infection in these populations. Flea samples were collected via human baits from animal farms in two districts of Zanjan Province, northwest of Iran. The ITS1 region and the partial Rickettsia gltA gene were amplified from the samples of human flea, and 30 amplicons were sequenced. The 1136 collected fleas consisted of 1079 (94.98%) P. irritans, 36 (3.17%) Ctenocephalides canis, and 21 (1.85%) Ctenocephalides felis. Molecular investigation of 182 human fleas detected the infection of Rickettsia sp. in 4.9%. The ITS1 region covered 957 bp and contained three tandem units of 98–99 bp, starting at positions 145, 245, and 331. Multiple alignments of ITS1 sequences showed single-nucleotide polymorphism at position 798, which caused the substitution of cytosine for adenine in the novel haplotype. High frequency of P. irritans and its Rickettsia infection requires the application of vector control measures, and full characterization of Rickettsia sp. and its potential to cause disease in humans. Regarding the consistency of ITS1 region and its ability to differentiate insect communities, further investigations are recommended to identify the role of selective factors in maintenance of this spacer.


Pulex irritans Rickettsia infection ITS1 gltA gene Iran 



This work was financially supported by Zanjan University of Medical Sciences (ZUMS). We would like to thank the staff of Zanjan, Mahneshan, and Khodabandeh Health Centers for their kind collaborations in collecting flea samples. The authors also thank Dr. Zeighami for his generous help in laboratory work and Mr. Taghiloo and Miss Poorrastgho for their immense contribution to flea collection. We would like to thank Dr. Momenbellah Fard and two anonymous reviewers for their comments that improved the quality of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad Bagher Ghavami
    • 1
  • Habibeh Mirzadeh
    • 1
  • Jamshid Mohammadi
    • 1
  • Asghar Fazaeli
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Medical Entomology and Vector Control, School of MedicineZanjan University of Medical SciencesZanjanIran
  2. 2.Department of Medical Parasitology & Mycology, School of MedicineZanjan University of Medical SciencesZanjanIran

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