Rickettsia species in ticks collected from wild pigs (Sus scrofa) and Philippine deer (Rusa marianna) on Guam, Marianna Islands, USA.
The prevalence and diversity of ticks on wildlife species on Guam is understudied, as to date no work has been conducted on the infection of these ticks with Rickettsia (obligate intracellular pathogens that use a variety of ectoparasites as vectors and can cause disease in humans, domestic animals, and wildlife species). The goal of our study was to investigate the presence of Rickettsia species on the island of Guam by testing ticks found on Philippine deer (Rusa marianna) and wild pigs (Sus scrofa). Increasing numbers of these species have led to increased interactions with humans, including hunting, highlighting the importance of studies on vector prevalence and associated zoonotic pathogens. In this study, ticks were removed from Philippine deer and wild pigs in March and April of 2015 and tested for Rickettsia spp. using nested PCR. Overall, a low prevalence of Rickettsia spp. was detected (5.4% (6/112 ticks)). Ticks removed from wild pigs were identified as Amblyomma breviscutatum, one of which was positive for Rickettsia ambylommatis. Ticks recovered from Philippine deer were identified as Rhipicephalus microplus, and five were positive for Rickettsia; two with R. amblyommatis and one with 'Candidatus Rickettsia senegalensis', a recently proposed species in the R. felis cluster. The remaining two sequences were short and species classification was not possible. Rickettsia felis is a known zoonotic pathogen in the spotted fever group of Rickettsia and there is evidence that 'C. R. senegalensis' can also cause illness in people. This study confirms the occurrence of Rickettsia in ticks on Guam and highlights the presence of potential human pathogenic species in the R. felis cluster.