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Emerg Health Threats J. 2011 Jul 1;4:7168. doi: 10.3402/ehtj.v4i0.7168.

Rickettsia felis, an emerging flea-transmitted human pathogen.

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Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, Geelong Hospital, Geelong, VIC, Australia;


Rickettsia felis was first recognised two decades ago and has now been described as endemic to all continents except Antarctica. The rickettsiosis caused by R. felis is known as flea-borne spotted fever or cat-flea typhus. The large number of arthropod species found to harbour R. felis and that may act as potential vectors support the view that it is a pan-global microbe. The main arthropod reservoir and vector is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, yet more than 20 other species of fleas, ticks, and mites species have been reported to harbour R. felis. Few bacterial pathogens of humans have been found associated with such a diverse range of invertebrates. With the projected increase in global temperature over the next century, there is concern that changes to the ecology and distribution of R. felis vectors may adversely impact public health.


Ctenocephalides felis; Rickettsia felis; cat flea typhus; flea-borne spotted fever

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