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    Rickettsia felis is an obligate intracellular Gram-negative bacterium which causes flea-borne spotted fever in humans. In the past decades, R. felis has been detected worldwide in Ctenocephalides felis fleas and various other arthropods. However, due to its shared symptoms with other common vector-borne diseases, human infection is prone to be underestimated or misdiagnosed, especially in the malaria-endemic areas including sub-Saharan Africa, where confirmatory laboratory diagnoses are not usually available. In this study, a 'One Health' approach was adopted to explore potential vector-borne and zoonotic pathogens in the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe (DRSTP), an island nation in the Gulf of Guinea. By collaborating with local veterinarians, 1,187 fleas were collected from 95 domestic dogs across the country and later identified as Ct. felis using taxonomic keys. A cytochrome oxidase gene-based phylogenetic analysis revealed that all collected fleas belonged to a single haplotype and were identical to isolates from Ivory Coast and Brazil that clustered into a clade of tropical distribution. Additional samples of 14 chigoe fleas (Tunga penetrans) were collected from the surrounding environment of the dogs' resting spots. Rickettsia felis infection in fleas was examined by molecular methods targeting the citrate synthase (gltA)- and outer membrane protein A (ompA)-coding genes as well as the R. felis-specific pRF plasmid. The bacterial DNA was detected in 21.01% (146/695) of cat fleas but none of the chigoe fleas. Microimmunofluorescence assay was then performed to assess pathogen exposure of the residents. Of 240 dried blood spots from participants with dog contacts, 8 (3.33%) exhibited R. felis antibodies. Our findings demonstrated the presence of R. felis in DRSTP. Further extensive epidemiological studies regarding its prevalence and its role in causing febrile illness while the nation is entering pre-elimination stage of malaria will be carried out. © 2020 Wiley-VCH GmbH.


    Kun-Hsien Tsai, Tsai-Ying Yen, Wen-Jer Wu, Ronalg Carvalho, Didier Raoult, Pierre-Edouard Fournier. Investigation of Ctenocephalides felis on domestic dogs and Rickettsia felis infection in the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe. Zoonoses and public health. 2020 Dec;67(8):892-902

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    PMID: 33145971

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