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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2013 Jan;13(1):1-5. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2012.1002. Epub 2012 Nov 30.

Evidence of antibodies to spotted fever group rickettsiae in small mammals and quail from Mississippi.

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  • 1Department of Basic Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762, USA.

Abstract

Rickettsia parkeri is a recently recognized human pathogen primarily associated with the Gulf Coast tick Amblyomma maculatum, with immature stages of this tick reported from wild vertebrates. To better understand the role of vertebrates in the natural history of this bacterium, we evaluated small mammals and ground-dwelling birds for evidence of infection with R. parkeri or exposure to the organism. We sampled small mammals (n=39) and passerines (n=47) in both north-central and southeast Mississippi, while northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) samples (n=31) were obtained from farms in central Mississippi. Blood from all sampled animals was tested using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for spotted fever group rickettsiae (SFGR), and for antibodies to SFGR using R. parkeri antigen. Ectoparasite samples were removed from animals and included mites, lice, fleas, and immature ticks. Of 39 small mammal samples collected, 7 were positive for antibodies to SFGR; none tested positive by PCR for DNA of SFGR. Of 47 passerine blood samples collected, none were positive for DNA of SFGR by PCR, nor did any show serological evidence of exposure. Finally, none of 31 northern bobwhite samples tested were positive for SFGR DNA, while 7 were seropositive for rickettsial antibodies. Detection of seropositive rodents and quail suggests a role for these host species in the natural history of SFGR, possibly including R. parkeri, but the extent of their role has not yet been elucidated.

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