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Microb Ecol. 2011 Jul;62(1):134-42. doi: 10.1007/s00248-011-9868-x. Epub 2011 May 25.

Coxiella symbionts in the Cayenne tick Amblyomma cajennense.

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Laboratório de Genética Molecular de Eucariontes e Simbiontes, Dept. Genética, Inst. Biologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, CEP 21944-970, Brazil.


Members of the Coxiella genus are intracellular bacteria that can infect a variety of animals including humans. A symbiotic Coxiella was recently described in Amblyomma americanum ticks in the Northern Hemisphere with no further investigations of other Amblyomma species in other geographic regions. These ixodid ticks represent a group of important vectors for human infectious agents. In the present work, we have demonstrated that symbiotic Coxiella (SCox) are widespread, occurring in South America and infecting 100% of all life stages and eggs of the Cayenne ticks Amblyomma cajennense from Brazil and the USA. Using light microscopy, in situ hybridization, and PCR, we demonstrated SCox in salivary glands, ovaries, and the intestines of A. cajennense. These symbionts are vertically and transtadially transmitted in laboratory reared A. cajennense, and quantitative PCR analyses indicate that SCox are more abundant in adult female ticks, reaching values corresponding to an 11×, 38×, and 200× increase in SCox 16S rRNA gene copy number in unfed females, compared to unfed nymphs, larvae, and eggs, respectively. Phylogenetic analyses showed distinct SCox subpopulations in the USA and Brazil and demonstrated that SCox bacteria do not group with pathogenic Coxiella burnetii.

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