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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2013 Sep;13(9):637-42. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2012.1190. Epub 2013 Jun 27.

Isolation of tick and mosquito-borne arboviruses from ticks sampled from livestock and wild animal hosts in Ijara District, Kenya.

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1 Human Health Division , International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi, Kenya .


Tick-borne viruses infect humans through the bite of infected ticks during opportunistic feeding or through crushing of ticks by hand and, in some instances, through contact with infected viremic animals. The Ijara District, an arid to semiarid region in northern Kenya, is home to a pastoralist community for whom livestock keeping is a way of life. Part of the Ijara District lies within the boundaries of a Kenya Wildlife Service-protected conservation area. Arbovirus activity among mosquitoes, animals, and humans is reported in the region, mainly because prevailing conditions necessitate that people continuously move their animals in search of pasture, bringing them in contact with ongoing arbovirus transmission cycles. To identify the tick-borne viruses circulating among these communities, we analyzed ticks sampled from diverse animal hosts. A total of 10,488 ticks were sampled from both wildlife and livestock hosts and processed in 1520 pools of up to eight ticks per pool. The sampled ticks were classified to species, processed for virus screening by cell culture using Vero cells and RT-PCR (in the case of Hyalomma species), followed by amplicon sequencing. The tick species sampled included Rhipicephalus pulchellus (76.12%), Hyalomma truncatum (8.68%), Amblyomma gemma (5.00%), Amblyomma lepidum (4.34%), and others (5.86%). We isolated and identified Bunyamwera (44), Dugbe (5), Ndumu (2), Semliki forest (25), Thogoto (3), and West Nile (3) virus strains. This observation constitutes a previously unreported detection of mosquito-borne Semliki forest and Bunyamwera viruses in ticks, and association of West Nile virus with A. gemma and Rh. pulchellus ticks. These findings provide additional evidence on the potential role of ticks and associated animals in the circulation of diverse arboviruses in northeastern Kenya, including viruses previously known to be essentially mosquito borne.

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