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High Prevalence of Rickettsia typhi and Bartonella Species in Rats and Fleas, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo

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  • EEID, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom; Evolutionary Ecology, University of Antwerp, Antwerpen, Belgium; University Clinic of Kisangani, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Science Faculty, University of Kisangani, Kisangani, DRC; Biodiversity Monitoring Center (Centre de Surveillance de la Biodiversité, CSB), Kisangani, DRC; Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium; Faculty of Geosciences, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands; Aix Marseille Université, URMITE, UM63, CNRS 7278, IRD 198, Inserm 1095, 13005 Marseille, France
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The prevalence and identity of Rickettsia and Bartonella in urban rat and flea populations were evaluated in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by molecular tools. An overall prevalence of 17% Bartonella species and 13% Rickettsia typhi, the agent of murine typhus, was found in the cosmopolitan rat species, Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus that were infested by a majority of Xenopsylla cheopis fleas. Bartonella queenslandensis, Bartonella elizabethae, and three Bartonella genotypes were identified by sequencing in rat specimens, mostly in R. rattus. Rickettsia typhi was detected in 72% of X. cheopis pools, the main vector and reservoir of this zoonotic pathogen. Co-infections were observed in rodents, suggesting a common mammalian host shared by R. typhi and Bartonella spp. Thus, both infections are endemic in DRC and the medical staffs need to be aware knowing the high prevalence of impoverished populations or immunocompromised inhabitants in this area.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Cristina Socolovschi, URMITE, UMR CNRS 7278, IRD 198, INSERM U1095, Faculté de Médecine, 27 Bd Jean Moulin, 13385 Marseille cedex 5, France. E-mail: cristina.socolovschi@univ-amu.fr

Financial support: The travel grant of DF was funded by Belgian Development Aid project T2–IMAB–01: “Cooperation with the University of Kisangani for the taxonomic study and the monitoring of lowland forests.” Promotor EV (RBINS/UAntwerpen). The fieldwork was supported by VLIR–UOS: Projects DRC 2009–Special call: “Soutien académique pour le développement de la recherche appliquée sur les petits mammifères nuisibles en DRC.” Promotor: Herwig LEIRS (UAntwerpen) & DUDU Akaibe (UNIKIS), co–promotor EV (RBINS/UAntwerpen) and VLIR PP CUI, phase I, projet 2: Apport de la biodiversité à la formation et la sécurité alimentaire dans le Bassin Nord-est du Congo (Kisangani, R.D. Congo). Coordinator biodiversity project: Hippolyte NSIMBA Seya wa Malale (UNIKIS) and EV (RBINS/UAntwerpen).

Authors' addresses: Anne Laudisoit, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool - EEID, Liverpool, UK, E-mail: Anne.Laudisoit@liverpool.ac.uk. Dadi Falay, University Clinic of Kisangani - University Clinic of Kisangani, Kisangani, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, E-mail: dadfal@yahoo.fr. Nicaise Amundala and Dudu Akaibe, University of Kisangani - Science Faculty, Kisangani, The Demoncratic Republic of the Congo, E-mails: nicaisedrazo@yahoo.fr and duduakaibe@yahoo.fr. Joelle Goüy de Bellocq, Natalie Van Houtte, Matteo Breno, and Erik Verheyen, University of Antwerp - Evolutionary Ecology, Antwerpen, Belgium, E-mails: joellegouy@gmail.com, natalie.vanhoutte@ua.ac.be, Matteo.Breno@ua.ac.be, and erik.verheyen@ua.ac.be. Liesbeth Wilschut, University of Utrecht - Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht, Netherlands, E-mail: everheyen@naturalsciences.be. Philippe Parola, Hôpital Nord - Service des Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales, Marseille, France, E-mail: philippe.parola@gmail.com. Didier Raoult and Cristina Socolovschi, Faculté de Médecine - Aix Marseille Université, Marseille, France, E-mails: didier.raoult@gmail.com and cristina.socolovschi@univ-amu.fr.

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