Identification of Rickettsiae from Ticks Collected in the Central African Republic Using the Polymerase Chain Reaction

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  • Unite des Rickettsies (CNRS), et Laboratoire de Sante Publique, Faculte de Medecine, ORSTOM, Marseille, France

Spotted fever rickettsiosis have been identified on the African continent since their historical description in 1909. However, only Rickettsia conorii and R. africae have been described in Africa, and the current techniques for the detection of rickettsiae in ticks are difficult to apply in large field studies. We report here a preliminary study using genomic amplification by the polymerase chain reaction followed by restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) analysis directly on 310 crushed ticks (Rhipicephalus, Amblyomma, and Haemaphysalis species) collected in 1985 in the Central African Republic. Among 310 specimen tested, 21.6% were positive. The rate of infection ranged from 0% to 64.3%, depending on the tick species. Based on PCR-RFLP, five different rickettsiae profiles were found: R. conorii and R. africae, previously known in Africa, R. rhipicephali, which has never been described in Africa, and two isolates identical to R. massiliae and Mtu5, previously obtained from Rh. turanicus in southern France. This work shows that PCR-RFLP is a powerful tool to study tick collections, and that it is applicable to samples from developing countries. Further work is needed to confirm the identification of the rickettsiae found in this work, using traditional identification procedures.