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J Med Entomol. 2012 May;49(3):766-71.

Rickettsia spp. and coinfections with other pathogenic microorganisms in hard ticks from northern Germany.

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Institute for Parasitology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Buenteweg 17, 30559 Hannover, Germany.


Rickettsia species are the causative agent of different forms of spotted fever and thus, monitored in a number of prevalence studies. The current study examined the status of ticks from the city of Hanover, Northern Germany, regarding the presence of Rickettsia spp. and coinfections with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (sl) and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. In total, 1,089 questing Ixodes ricinus L. ticks were analyzed using quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction. A duplex quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction for simultaneous detection of Rickettsia spp. and Ixodes spp.-DNA as positive control for successful DNA-isolation was established. Rickettsia spp. were detected in 363 (33.3%) of the 1,089 investigated ticks. Quantification of Rickettsia showed that larvae contained up to 50,000 bacteria, nymphs up to 85 million and adults up to 200 million per tick. Species differentiation was possible in 178 out of 363 Rickettsia positive samples and resulted in a predominant occurrence of R. helvetica (98.9%, 176/178), whereas R. monacensis was rarely found (1.1%, 2/178). Besides detection of Rickettsia, positive ticks were compared with results from previous studies to examine coinfections with B. burgdorferi sl and A. phagocytophilum. The resulting coinfection rates were 9.1% (99/1,089) for B. burgdorferi sl and 2.8% (11/391) for A. phagocytophilum. Triple-infection with Rickettsia spp., B. burgdorferi sl, and A. phagocytophilum occurred in 5 (1.3%) out of 391 ticks. The current study is the first presenting quantitative data concerning the load of Ixodes ticks with Rickettsia individuals.

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