Relapsing Fever Borreliae in Africa

Haitham Elbir Aix Marseille Université, URMITE, UMR63 CNRS 7278, IRD 198, Inserm 1095, Marseille, France

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Didier Raoult Aix Marseille Université, URMITE, UMR63 CNRS 7278, IRD 198, Inserm 1095, Marseille, France

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Michel Drancourt Aix Marseille Université, URMITE, UMR63 CNRS 7278, IRD 198, Inserm 1095, Marseille, France

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The study of relapsing fever borreliae in Africa has long suffered from the use of non-specific laboratory tools for the direct detection of these spirochetes in clinical and vector specimens. Accordingly, Borrelia hispanica, Borrelia crocidurae, Borrelia duttonii, and Borrelia recurrentis have traditionally been distinguished on the basis of geography and vector and the unproven hypothesis that each species was exclusive to one vector. The recent sequencing of three relapsing fever Borrelia genomes in our laboratory prompted the development of more specific tools and a reappraisal of the epidemiology in Africa. Five additional potential species still need to be cultured from clinical and vector sources in East Africa to further assess their uniqueness. Here, we review the molecular evidence of relapsing fever borreliae in hosts and ectoparasites in Africa and explore the diversity, geographical distribution, and vector association of these pathogens for Africans and travelers to Africa.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Michel Drancourt, Unité des Rickettsies, Faculté de Médecine, 27, Boulevard Jean Moulin-Cedex 5, France. E-mail: michel.drancourt@univmed.fr

Financial support: This study was supported by a 2008 grant from the French National Research Agency (ANR) for the project ANR-08-MIEN-000 BORETIC.

Authors' addresses: Haitham Elbir, Didier Raoult, and Michel Drancourt, Aix Marseile Université - URMITE UMR63 CNRS 7872, IRD 198 Inserm 1095, Marseille, France, E-mails: haythamalbur@hotmail.com, didier.raoult@gmail.com, and michel.drancourt@univ-amu.fr.

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