• View in gallery

    Map of risk for Rickettsia and Bartonella species on Reunion Island. Red stars: the localities (Port: 20°55′S, 55°19E, Sans Souci: 21°01′S, 55°30′E, Trois Bassin: 21°06′S, 55°17′E, Saint Leu: 21°10′S, 55°17′E) where fleas were found infected for Rickettsia and Bartonella species. Blue stars: the localities where no fleas or non-infected fleas were collected on captured mammals.

  • 1.

    Bitam I, Dittmar K, Parola P, Whiting MF, Raoult D, 2010. Fleas and flea-borne diseases. Int J Infect Dis 14: e667e676.

  • 2.

    Parola P, 2011. Rickettsia felis: from a rare disease in the USA to a common cause of fever in sub-Saharan Africa. Clin Microbiol Infect 17: 9961000.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    Balleydier E, Camuset G, Socolovsci C, Moiton MP, Kuli B, Foucher A, Poubeau P, Borgherini G, Wartel G, Audin H, Parola P, Raoult D, Pagès F, Filleul L, 2014. Emergence of murine typhus in Reunion Island, South West Ocean Indian Island: epidemiological, clinical, laboratory features of 10 cases. Emerg Inf Dis (in press).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Walter G, Botelho-Nevers E, Socolovschi C, Raoult D, Parola P, 2012. Murine typhus in returned travelers: a report of thirty-two cases. Am J Trop Med Hyg 86: 10491053.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Muller S, Boulouis HJ, Viallard J, Beugnet F, 2004. Epidemiological survey of canine bartonellosis to Bartonella vinsonii subs. berkhoffii and canine monocytic ehrlichiosis in dogs on the Island of reunion. Revue de Médecine Vétérinaire 155: 377380.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Beaucournu JC, Launay F, 1990. Les puces (Siphonaptera) de France et du bassin méditerranéen occidental. Paris: Fédération Française des Sociétés de Sciences Naturelles. (in French).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    Guernier V, Lagadec E, LeMinter G, Licciardi S, Balleydier E, Pages F, Laudisoit A, Dellagi K, Tortosa P, 2014. Fleas of small mammals on reunion island: diversity, distribution and epidemiological consequences. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 8: e3129.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8.

    Rogers SO, Bendich AJ, 1994. Extraction of total cellular DNA from plants, algae and fungi. Gelvin SB, Schilperoort RA, eds. Plantcbefore Molecular Biology Manual. Kluwer Academic Publishers. Springer Netherlands, 183190.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Socolovschi C, Mediannikov O, Sokhna C, Tall A, Diatta G, Bassene H, Trape JF, Raoult D, 2010. Rickettsia felis-associated uneruptive fever, Senegal. Emerg Infect Dis 16: 11401142.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Varagnol M, Parola P, Jouan R, Beaucournu JC, Rolain JM, Raoult D, 2009. First detection of Rickettsia felis and Bartonella clarridgeiae in fleas from Laos. Clin Microbiol Infect 15 (Suppl 2): 334335.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Lin JW, Chen CY, Chen WC, Chomel BB, Chang CC, 2008. Isolation of Bartonella species from rodents in Taiwan including a strain closely related to ‘Bartonella rochalimae’ from Rattus norvegicus. J Med Microbiol 57: 14961501.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12.

    Engel P, Salzburger W, Liesch M, Chang CC, Maruyama S, Lanz C, Calteau A, Lajus A, Medigue C, Schuster SC, Dehio C, 2011. Parallel evolution of a type IV secretion system in radiating lineages of the host-restricted bacterial pathogen Bartonella. PLoS Genet 7: e1001296.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 13.

    Jiyipong T, Jittapalapong S, Morand S, Raoult D, Rolain JM, 2012. Prevalence and genetic diversity of Bartonella spp. in small mammals from Southeastern Asia. Appl Environ Microbiol 78: 84638466.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 14.

    Christou C, Psaroulaki A, Antoniou M, Toumazos P, Ioannou I, Mazeris A, Chochlakis D, Tselentis Y, 2010. Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia felis in Xenopsylla cheopis and Leptopsylla segnis parasitizing rats in Cyprus. Am J Trop Med Hyg 83: 13011304.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15.

    Azad AF, 1990. Epidemiology of murine typhus. Annu Rev Entomol 35: 553569.

  • 16.

    Mediannikov O, Socolovschi C, Edouard S, Fenollar F, Mouffok N, Bassene H, Diatta G, Tall A, Niangaly H, Doumbo O, Lekana-Douki JB, Znazen A, Sarih M, Ratmanov P, Richet H, Ndiath MO, Sokhna C, Parola P, Raoult D, 2013. Common epidemiology of Rickettsia felis infection and malaria, Africa. Emerg Infect Dis 19: 17751783.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    Thiberville SD, Boisson V, Gaudart J, Simon F, Flahault A, de Lamballerie X, 2013. Chikungunya fever: a clinical and virological investigation of outpatients on Reunion Island, South-West Indian Ocean. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 7: e2004.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rickettsia and Bartonella Species in Fleas from Reunion Island

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  • Aix Marseille Université, URMITE, Marseille, WHO Coll. Centre for Rickettsioses and Other Arthropod Borne Bacterial Diseases, France; Centre de Recherche et de Veille sur les Maladies Emergentes dans l'Océan Indien, Plateforme de Recherche CYROI, Sainte Clotilde, Reunion Island, France; Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Reunion Island, France; Regional Office of the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (Cire OI - Institut de Veille Sanitaire), Saint Denis, Reunion Island, France; Université de La Reunion, Joint Chair CNRS-Université de La Reunion, Sainte Clotilde, Reunion Island, France

Rickettsia felis, Rickettsia typhi, and Bartonella DNA was detected by molecular tools in 12% of Rattus rattus fleas (Xenopsylla species) collected from Reunion Island. One-third of the infested commensal rodents captured during 1 year carried at least one infected flea. As clinical signs of these zoonoses are non-specific, they are often misdiagnosed.

Introduction

Adult male and female fleas are obligate hematophagous ectoparasites of mammals and birds throughout the world and can contaminate their hosts with bacteria, viruses, and blood-borne parasites.1 The two most common routes of pathogen transmission by fleas are 1) oral route, by the regurgitation of blood meals at the flea-bite site; and 2) fecal, though skin lesions contaminated with infected fecal pellets by scratching.1 Fleas are vectors of several important bacterial zoonoses, including plague (Yersinia pestis), bartonelloses (several Bartonella species), and rickettsioses such as murine typhus (Rickettsia typhi), flea-borne spotted fever (Rickettsia felis), and occasionally sylvatic epidemic typhus (Rickettsia prowazekii).1,2

Reunion is a tropical oceanic island of volcanic origin located in the Indian Ocean, East of Madagascar. To date, no information is available on the distribution of flea species and flea-borne zoonoses on this island. Several murine typhus cases were recently confirmed using serological and molecular tools in travelers and autochthonous people from Reunion Island.3,4 In addition, the seroprevalence rate of bartonellosis in dogs was estimated to be ∼10%.5 The aim of this study was to analyze the presence of Rickettsia and Bartonella species in fleas sampled from small mammals on this island, which has favorable climatic and ecologic conditions for the proliferation of fleas and their hosts.

The Study

During a 1-year survey (2012–2013), fleas were collected from small terrestrial mammals, including the black rat (Rattus rattus), the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), the Asian house shrew (Suncus murinus), the house mouse (Mus musculus), and the tailless tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus), captured at 19 localities (Figure 1) on Reunion Island in various biotopes. Wire cage live traps (29 × 18 × 12 cm) were used for rat and tenrec trapping, and Sherman live traps were used for mice and shrews. All animal procedures carried out in this study were approved by the French Institutional Ethical Committee (CYROI) under no. 114. Fleas were manually collected with a brush or forceps and identified to the species level using the morphological criteria.6 The detailed descriptions of the distribution and ecology of the collected fleas and their animal hosts are the subject of another study.7 A total of 205 flea DNA samples extracted as previously described,8 were sent in dry ice to the World Health Organization (WHO) Center for Rickettsial Diseases, Marseille. These fleas were collected from 59 small mammals including 52 R. rattus, two R. norvegicus, four S. murinus, and one M. musculus. We analyzed four flea species, i.e., Xenopsylla cheopis (134/205), Xenopsylla brasiliensis (57/205), Leptopsylla segnis (13/205), and Echidnophaga gallinacea (1/205), for the presence of Rickettsia and Bartonella DNA by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) using a CFX96qPCR Detection System (Bio-Rad, Marnes-la Coquette, France). All positive (R. felis, R. typhi, and Bartonella elizabethae DNA) and negative (qPCR mix and DNA extracted from laboratory free bacteria fleas) controls used in the qPCR and standard PCR assays showed the expected results.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Map of risk for Rickettsia and Bartonella species on Reunion Island. Red stars: the localities (Port: 20°55′S, 55°19E, Sans Souci: 21°01′S, 55°30′E, Trois Bassin: 21°06′S, 55°17′E, Saint Leu: 21°10′S, 55°17′E) where fleas were found infected for Rickettsia and Bartonella species. Blue stars: the localities where no fleas or non-infected fleas were collected on captured mammals.

Citation: The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 92, 3; 10.4269/ajtmh.14-0424

Rickettsia felis DNA was assessed using primers: Rfel_phosp_MBF, 5′-GCAAACATCGGTGAAATTGA-3′, and Rfel_phosp_MBR, 5′-GCCACTGTGCTTCACAAACA-3′, and the probe Rfel_phosp_MBP, 6FAM-CCGCTTCGTTATCCGTGGGACC, targeting the phosphatase gene. Positive results were confirmed by a second qPCR assay targeting the guanosine polyphosphate gene using the primers Rfel_ guano_MBF, 5′GCATATACTTTATTGTGCGCAAGTT-3′, and Rfel_ guano_MBR, 5′-TTTATCGATTGACAGAAGAAGAAATCA-3′, and probe Rfel_ guano_MBP, 6FAM-TCGCTTTTTGGGATTGTTTGCCAGA. We screened the DNA samples by qPCR for typhus-group rickettsiae with a Rickettsia-specific glycosyltransferase gene-based Rpr331 system.9 Positive samples were further confirmed with amplification of the Rpr 274P gene.4 Samples were considered positive when two amplifications were obtained targeting two different specific genes. Subsequently, DNA samples were screened using Bartonella genus-specific qPCR with a Taqman probe targeting the 16S/23S rRNA gene intergenic spacer (ITS).10

Bacterial DNA was detected in 10.73% (22 of 205) of the fleas by qPCR, including X. cheopis (12%, 16 of 134) and X. brasiliensis fleas (10.5%, 6 of 57) collected from 15 R. rattus of 59 infested small mammals (25%). Rickettsia felis was detected in 5 of 205 (2.44%) flea specimens, including four X. cheopis and one X. brasiliensis collected from three different R. rattus individuals. Rickettsia typhi was detected in three (1.46%) X. cheopis fleas collected from three different R. rattus individuals. Bartonella DNA was detected by qPCR in 14 (6.83%) flea specimens, including nine X. cheopis and five X. brasiliensis collected from 11 different R. rattus individuals. Among these positive samples, two samples tested positive by standard PCR targeting the 972-bp ITS fragment.10 Sequence analyses using CHROMAS-PRO version 1.5 showed that one sequence harbored 99.56% (691 of 694) similarity with Bartonella queenslandensis (GenBank accession no.: EU111800); the second had 99.89% (971 of 972) homology with Bartonella sp. 1.1C (GenBank accession no.: FN645496) from a R. norvegicus isolated from Taichung, Taiwan.11 The geographical distribution of the infected fleas is shown in Figure 1 and Table 1.

Table 1

Detection of Rickettsia and Bartonella species in fleas, Reunion Island

Flea speciesNo. of tested fleasNo. (%) of positive fleasRickettsia spp. (no. of infected fleas, localities)Bartonella spp. (no. of infected fleas, localities)
Xenopsylla cheopis13416 (11.94)R. felis (4, St. Leu)Bartonella spp. (7: Port - 2, St; Leu - 4; Trois Bassin - 1)
R. typhi (3, Trois Bassin - 1; Port - 2)B. queenslandensis (1, St. Leu)
Bartonella spp. 1-1C (1, St. Leu)
Xenopsylla brasiliensis576 (10.52)R. felis (1, Sans Souci)Bartonella spp. (5, Sans Souci)
Leptopsylla segnis13  
Echidnophaga gallinacea1  
Total20522 (10.73)8 (3.90)14 (6.83)

Conclusion

In this study, R. felis, R. typhi, and Bartonella spp., including Bartonella queenslandensis, and Bartonella sp. 1.1C, were detected using molecular tools in Xenopsylla fleas collected from R. rattus on Reunion Island. Almost one-third of the infested rats (15 of 54) carried at least one infected Xenopsylla flea. Bartonella species are zoonotic facultative intracellular parasites of both wild and domestic animals, and more than 20 species have been described.12 The pathogenicity of B. queenslandensis, which has been isolated from small mammals from several Asian countries and detected in X. cheopis fleas, is unknown.13 The analysis of the genome of Bartonella sp. 1.1C, isolated from R. norvegicus, revealed that this species belongs to lineage 3, which contains some zoonotic pathogens.12 Unfortunately, the Bartonella DNA load that was detected using qPCR was low, and we failed to amplify and sequence the standard PCR product. Further study is needed to test the tissues of these small animals for the existence of other Bartonella species. Ten percent (95 if 960) of the captured mammals were infested with fleas. As Xenopsylla fleas are competent vectors, these Bartonella species could be incidentally transmitted to other hosts such as humans on Reunion Island.

Rickettsia species are obligate gram-negative intracellular bacteria vectorized only by hematophagous arthropods.1 Rickettsia felis is an emergent pathogen belonging to the Spotted Fever Group Rickettsia, with a worldwide distribution.2 It has previously been detected in several non- and hematophagous ectoparasites, including Xenopsylla fleas14; however, the only known biological vector is the cat flea Ctenocephalides felis.2

The identification of R. typhi in 2% of X. cheopis (Oriental rat flea) collected from the commensal rat R. rattus, including in the neighborhood of murine typhus cases, illustrates the life cycle of this pathogen (rat-flea-rat) on this island. Xenopsylla cheopis remains infectious throughout its life, from 10 days to a year after an infected blood meal.15 Experimental and field studies have shown that X. cheopis is the main vector of murine typhus.15 The clinical signs of murine typhus and R. felis infection are quite similar: high fever, headache, weakness, generalized pain, and sometimes a generalized rash.2,4 Murine typhus has been diagnosed in recent years on Reunion Island,3,4 but R. felis infection has not, even though 15% of febrile patients in Senegal, with the same climate conditions, tested positive for the latter.16 In addition, the previous group of symptoms is similar to those of a range of other bacterial and viral infectious diseases.4 Recently, a Chikungunya infection study in Reunion Island reported that 30% of patients recruited on the basis of clinical presentation with acute febrile arthralgia during an epidemic period were excluded from the diagnosis of the viral infection, which may reflect that many cases of other infections such as rickettsioses may be responsible for these symptoms, including severe ones, which are likely misdiagnosed.17 Within this context, preventive measures should rely on arthropod surveillance and minimizing the risk of exposure in areas of endemicity.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We thank the Direction de l'Environnement, de l'Aménagement et du Logement (DEAL Reunion) for issuing permits and the Office National des Forêts (ONF) and the Parc National de La Reunion who gave authorizations for the trapping of Tenrec eucaudatus within protected areas (DIR/I/2013/008).

  • 1.

    Bitam I, Dittmar K, Parola P, Whiting MF, Raoult D, 2010. Fleas and flea-borne diseases. Int J Infect Dis 14: e667e676.

  • 2.

    Parola P, 2011. Rickettsia felis: from a rare disease in the USA to a common cause of fever in sub-Saharan Africa. Clin Microbiol Infect 17: 9961000.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    Balleydier E, Camuset G, Socolovsci C, Moiton MP, Kuli B, Foucher A, Poubeau P, Borgherini G, Wartel G, Audin H, Parola P, Raoult D, Pagès F, Filleul L, 2014. Emergence of murine typhus in Reunion Island, South West Ocean Indian Island: epidemiological, clinical, laboratory features of 10 cases. Emerg Inf Dis (in press).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Walter G, Botelho-Nevers E, Socolovschi C, Raoult D, Parola P, 2012. Murine typhus in returned travelers: a report of thirty-two cases. Am J Trop Med Hyg 86: 10491053.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Muller S, Boulouis HJ, Viallard J, Beugnet F, 2004. Epidemiological survey of canine bartonellosis to Bartonella vinsonii subs. berkhoffii and canine monocytic ehrlichiosis in dogs on the Island of reunion. Revue de Médecine Vétérinaire 155: 377380.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Beaucournu JC, Launay F, 1990. Les puces (Siphonaptera) de France et du bassin méditerranéen occidental. Paris: Fédération Française des Sociétés de Sciences Naturelles. (in French).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    Guernier V, Lagadec E, LeMinter G, Licciardi S, Balleydier E, Pages F, Laudisoit A, Dellagi K, Tortosa P, 2014. Fleas of small mammals on reunion island: diversity, distribution and epidemiological consequences. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 8: e3129.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8.

    Rogers SO, Bendich AJ, 1994. Extraction of total cellular DNA from plants, algae and fungi. Gelvin SB, Schilperoort RA, eds. Plantcbefore Molecular Biology Manual. Kluwer Academic Publishers. Springer Netherlands, 183190.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Socolovschi C, Mediannikov O, Sokhna C, Tall A, Diatta G, Bassene H, Trape JF, Raoult D, 2010. Rickettsia felis-associated uneruptive fever, Senegal. Emerg Infect Dis 16: 11401142.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Varagnol M, Parola P, Jouan R, Beaucournu JC, Rolain JM, Raoult D, 2009. First detection of Rickettsia felis and Bartonella clarridgeiae in fleas from Laos. Clin Microbiol Infect 15 (Suppl 2): 334335.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Lin JW, Chen CY, Chen WC, Chomel BB, Chang CC, 2008. Isolation of Bartonella species from rodents in Taiwan including a strain closely related to ‘Bartonella rochalimae’ from Rattus norvegicus. J Med Microbiol 57: 14961501.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12.

    Engel P, Salzburger W, Liesch M, Chang CC, Maruyama S, Lanz C, Calteau A, Lajus A, Medigue C, Schuster SC, Dehio C, 2011. Parallel evolution of a type IV secretion system in radiating lineages of the host-restricted bacterial pathogen Bartonella. PLoS Genet 7: e1001296.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 13.

    Jiyipong T, Jittapalapong S, Morand S, Raoult D, Rolain JM, 2012. Prevalence and genetic diversity of Bartonella spp. in small mammals from Southeastern Asia. Appl Environ Microbiol 78: 84638466.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 14.

    Christou C, Psaroulaki A, Antoniou M, Toumazos P, Ioannou I, Mazeris A, Chochlakis D, Tselentis Y, 2010. Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia felis in Xenopsylla cheopis and Leptopsylla segnis parasitizing rats in Cyprus. Am J Trop Med Hyg 83: 13011304.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15.

    Azad AF, 1990. Epidemiology of murine typhus. Annu Rev Entomol 35: 553569.

  • 16.

    Mediannikov O, Socolovschi C, Edouard S, Fenollar F, Mouffok N, Bassene H, Diatta G, Tall A, Niangaly H, Doumbo O, Lekana-Douki JB, Znazen A, Sarih M, Ratmanov P, Richet H, Ndiath MO, Sokhna C, Parola P, Raoult D, 2013. Common epidemiology of Rickettsia felis infection and malaria, Africa. Emerg Infect Dis 19: 17751783.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    Thiberville SD, Boisson V, Gaudart J, Simon F, Flahault A, de Lamballerie X, 2013. Chikungunya fever: a clinical and virological investigation of outpatients on Reunion Island, South-West Indian Ocean. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 7: e2004.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Cristina Scolovschi, URMITE, Faculté de Médecine, 27 Bd Jean Moulin, 13385 Marseille cedex 5 France. E-mail: cr_socolovschi@yahoo.com

Financial support: Sampling was supported by funding from CRVOI, ERDF/French Government/Regional Council of Reunion Island, FEDER POCT “LeptOI”, no. 32913.

Authors' addresses: Constentin Dieme, Philippe Parola, Didier Raoult, and Cristina Socolovschi, Aix Marseille University, URMITE, Marseille, WHO Coll. Centre for Rickettsioses and Other Arthropod Borne Bacterial Diseases, Marseille, France, E-mails: caiusdieme@yahoo.fr, philippe.parola@univ-amu.fr, didier.raoult@gmail.com, and cr_socolovschi@yahoo.com. Vanina Guernier, Erwan Lagadec, and Pablo Tortosa, Centre de Recherche et de Veille sur les Maladies Emergentes dans l'Océan Indien, Plateforme de Recherche CYROI, Sainte Clotilde, Réunion, E-mails: vanina.guernier@ird.fr, erwan.lagadec69@yahoo.fr, and pablo.tortosa@ird.fr. Gildas Le Minter, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Sainte Clotilde, Réunion, E-mail: leminterbzh@yahoo.fr. Elsa Balleydier and Frederic Pagès, Regional office of the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (Cire OI - Institut de Veille Sanitaire), Saint Denis, Réunion, E-mail: elsa.balleydier@ars.sante.fr and frederic.pages@ars.sante.fr. Koussay Dellagi, Centre de Recherche et de Veille sur les Maladies Émergentes dans l'Océan Indien (CRVOI), Virology Unit, Saint Denis, Réunion, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Saint Denis, Réunion, E-mail: koussay.dellagi@ird.fr.

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