Molecular identification of Rickettsia spp. in chigger mites in Taiwan

Chi Chien Kuo, Pei Lung Lee, Hsi Chieh Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The genus Rickettsia is the causative agent of several rickettsial diseases that are primarily transmitted by hard ticks. The occurrence of Rickettsia in chigger mites, which are vectors of scrub typhus in the western Pacific region, has been infrequently investigated. We identified Rickettsia spp. in chiggers collected from small mammals in six counties of Taiwan. Moreover, by capitalising on parallel Rickettsia detections on small mammals and their infested ticks and fleas, we were able to identify Rickettsia spp. that suggested more intimate associations with chigger mites. Rickettsia detection rates in 318 pools of chiggers were 21.7% and 22.3% when based on the ompB and gltA gene, respectively. Overall, we identified six (based on the ompB gene) and eight (gltA gene) Rickettsia species. Approximately half of the sequenced species were most similar to Rickettsia sp. clone MB74-1 (ompB gene) and Rickettsia sp. TwKM02 (gltA gene). Furthermore, both species were either infrequently or never identified in small mammals, ticks and fleas, which suggests that chigger mites might be the primary host of both rickettsiae. Whether both species are pathogenic to humans remains to be studied. They may also be microbial endosymbionts of chigger mites, with their potential effects on the pathogenicity of the aetiologic agent of scrub typhus deserving further investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-229
Number of pages7
JournalMedical and Veterinary Entomology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jun


  • Rickettsia
  • Rickettsia sp. TwKM02
  • Rickettsia sp. clone MB74-1
  • Taiwan
  • Trombiculidae
  • chiggers
  • microbiomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Veterinary
  • Insect Science


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