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Molecular Detection and Genotyping of Coxiella-Like Endosymbionts in Ticks Collected from Animals and Vegetation in Zambia

  • kobayashi;, toshiya
Publication Date
Jun 21, 2021
DOI: 10.3390/pathogens10060779
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Ticks are obligate ectoparasites as they require to feed on their host blood during some or all stages of their life cycle. In addition to the pathogens that ticks harbor and transmit to vertebrate hosts, they also harbor other seemingly nonpathogenic microorganisms including nutritional mutualistic symbionts. Tick nutritional mutualistic symbionts play important roles in the physiology of the host ticks as they are involved in tick reproduction and growth through the supply of B vitamins as well as in pathogen maintenance and propagation. Coxiella-like endosymbionts (CLEs) are the most widespread endosymbionts exclusively reported in ticks. Although CLEs have been investigated in ticks in other parts of the world, there is no report of their investigation in ticks in Zambia. To investigate the occurrence of CLEs, their maintenance, and association with host ticks in Zambia, 175 ticks belonging to six genera, namely Amblyomma, Argas, Haemaphysalis, Hyalomma, Ornithodoros, and Rhipicephalus, were screened for CLEs, followed by characterization of CLEs by multi-locus sequence typing of the five Coxiella housekeeping genes (dnaK, groEL, rpoB, 16S rRNA, and 23S rRNA). The results showed that 45.7% (n = 80) were positive for CLEs. The comparison of the tick 16S rDNA phylogenetic tree with that of the CLEs concatenated sequences showed that there was a strong correlation between the topology of the trees. The results suggest that most of the CLEs have evolved within tick species, supporting the vertical transmission phenomenon. However, the negative results for CLE in some ticks warrants further investigations of other endosymbionts that the ticks in Zambia may also harbor.

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