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    Hedgehogs (e.g., Erinaceus europaeus, E. roumanicus) are wild mammals that frequently are observed near residential areas. The aim of this study was to investigate ticks and fleas collected from European hedgehogs in Portugal and to evaluate the prevalence of Rickettsia in those ectoparasites. Ticks and fleas were identified by morphological and molecular methods, and molecular detection by PCR and genotypic characterization of Rickettsia spp. was performed targeting ompB, ompA and gltA gene fragments. In total, 1892 ticks and 213 fleas were collected from 33 rescued European hedgehogs captured in seven districts of the north and centre of Portugal. Two tick species were identified - Rhipicephalus sanguineus accounted for 91 % (n = 1719) of the total ticks collected and 9 % (n = 173) were Ixodes hexagonus. All fleas were identified as Archaeopsylla erinacei. Regarding pathogen detection, Rickettsia massiliae DNA was found in 22 of the 212 tested Rh. sanguineus. None of the 48 I. hexagonus tested showed to be positive for rickettsiae. Rickettsia asembonensis DNA was identified in 55 A. erinacei fleas tested (n = 117). These results show that European hedgehogs are exposed to R. massiliae transmitted by ticks and to R. asembonensis via fleas suggesting that these mammals might be involved in the natural transmission cycle of these Rickettsia species. This study is the first report of R. asembonensis in fleas in Portugal.

    Citation

    Patrícia F Barradas, João R Mesquita, Teresa L Mateus, Paula Ferreira, Irina Amorim, Fátima Gärtner, Rita de Sousa. Molecular detection of Rickettsia spp. in ticks and fleas collected from rescued hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in Portugal. Experimental & applied acarology. 2021 Mar;83(3):449-460

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    PMID: 33655451

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