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Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2012 Sep;3(4):203-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2012.02.003. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Coxiella symbiont in the tick Ornithodoros rostratus (Acari: Argasidae).

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Dept. of Preventive Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


In the present study, the presence of tick-associated bacteria and protozoa in Ornithodoros rostratus ticks (adults, nymphs, and eggs) from the Pantanal region of Brazil were determined by molecular detection. In these ticks, DNA from protozoa in the genera Babesia and Hepatozoon, and bacteria from the genera Rickettsia, Borrelia, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia were not detected. Conversely, all tested ticks (100%) yielded PCR products for 3 Coxiella genes (16S rRNA, pyrG, cap). PCR and phylogenetic analysis of 3 amplified genes (16S rRNA, pyrG, cap) demonstrated that the agent infecting O. rostratus ticks was a member of the genus Coxiella. This organism grouped with Coxiella symbionts of other soft tick species (Argasidae), having different isolates of C. burnetii as a sister group, and these 2 groups formed a clade that grouped with another clade containing Coxiella symbionts of hard tick species (Ixodidae). Analysis of tick mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene database composed mostly of tick species previously shown to harbor Coxiella symbionts suggests a phylogenetic congruence of ticks and their Coxiella symbionts. Furthermore, these results suggest a very long period of coevolution between ticks and Coxiella symbionts and indicates that the original infection may have occurred in an ancestor common to the 2 main tick families, Argasidae (soft ticks) and Ixodidae (hard ticks). However, this evolutionary relationship must be confirmed by more extensive testing of additional tick species and expanded populations.

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