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Molecular detection of Rickettsia bellii in Amblyomma rotundatum from imported red-footed tortoise (Chelonoides carbonaria)

Erster, Oran, Roth, Asael, Avni, Zvi, King, Rony, Shkap, Varda
Ticks and tick-borne diseases 2015 v.6 no.4 pp. 473-477
Amblyomma rotundatum, Rickettsia bellii, citrate (si)-synthase, cytochrome b, cytochrome-c oxidase, farmed animal species, fauna, genes, genetic markers, internal transcribed spacers, pathogens, pets, public health, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, ribosomal RNA, tick-borne diseases, ticks, tortoises, trade, Florida, Israel
Introduction of exotic ticks and pathogens through international animal trade (farm animals and pets) is a serious threat to public health and local fauna. Rapid and correct identification of potential threats is an important step on the way to conduct an efficient control of imported pests. In this report we describe the molecular identification of the neotropic tick Amblyomma rotundatum intercepted from red-footed tortoise (Chelonoides carbonaria), imported to Israel from Florida, USA. Molecular analysis of the ticks conducted upon their identification, revealed that they were infected with Rickettsia bellii. Following their collection, the ticks were examined morphologically and five molecular markers were used to determine their taxonomic identity: cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COX1), cytochrome b (CytB), 12S rRNA, 16S rRNA and internal transcribed sequence 2 (ITS-2). Molecular analysis indicated that all of the collected ticks were Amblyomma rotundatum. Using rickettsial gltA (citrate synthase) gene in real-time PCR analysis we found that approximately 25% of the intercepted ticks (8 of 33) were infected with Rickettsia bellii. It is concluded that accurate and timely identification of imported exotic ticks prevented their introduction to Israel, and that use of molecular tools may further improve the response to such potential threats.