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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Oct;1078:285-90.

Natural infection, transovarial transmission, and transstadial survival of Rickettsia bellii in the Tick Ixodes loricatus (Acari: Ixodidae) from Brazil.

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Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Prof. Dr. Orlando Marques de Paiva, 87, São Paulo, 05508-270, Brazil.


An Ixodes loricatus engorged female, infected with Rickettsia bellii, was collected from an opossum (Didelphis aurita) in Mogi das Cruzes, São Paulo State, Brazil. Two consecutive laboratory tick generations (F(1) and F(2)) reared from this single engorged female were evaluated for Rickettsia infection by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting specific Rickettsia genes. Immature ticks fed on naïve Wistar rats (Rattus norvegicus) and adult ticks fed on opossum (D. aurita), both free of ticks and rickettsial infection. PCR performed on individual ticks from the F(1) (20 larvae, 10 nymphs, and 10 adults) and the F(2) (30 larvae, 30 nymphs, and 15 adults) yielded expected bands compatible with Rickettsia. All the PCR products that were sequenced, targeting gltA gene, resulted in sequences identical to each other and 99.7% (349/350) similar to the corresponding sequence of R. bellii in GenBank. The R. bellii infection on ticks from the second laboratory generation (F(2)) was confirmed by other PCR protocols and successful isolation of R. bellii in cell culture. We report for the first time a Rickettsia species infecting I. loricatus, and the first report of R. bellii in the tick genus Ixodes. We conclude that there was an efficient transovarial transmission and transstadial survival of this Rickettsia species in the tick I. loricatus. Our results suggest that R. bellii might be maintained in nature solely by transovarial transmission and transstadial survival in ticks (no amplifier vertebrate host is needed), since there has been no direct or indirect evidence of infection of vertebrate hosts by R. bellii.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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