Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia felis (Rickettsiales: Rickettsiaceae) are two rickettsiae principally transmitted by fleas, but the detection of either pathogen has rarely been attempted in Taiwan. Of 2048 small mammals trapped in eastern Taiwan, Apodemus agrarius Pallas (24.5%) and Mus caroli Bonhote (24.4%) (both: Rodentia: Muridae) were the most abundant, and M. caroli hosted the highest proportion of fleas (63.9% of 330 fleas). Two flea species were identified: Stivalius aporus Jordan and Rothschild (Siphonaptera: Stivaliidae), and Acropsylla episema Rothschild (Siphonaptera: Leptopsyllidae). Nested polymerase chain reaction targeting parts of the ompB and gltA genes showed six fleas to be positive for Rickettsia spp. (3.8% of 160 samples), which showed the greatest similarity to R. felis, Rickettsia japonica, Rickettsia conorii or Rickettsia sp. TwKM01. Rickettsia typhi was not detected in the fleas and Rickettsia co-infection did not occur. Both flea species were more abundant during months with lower temperatures and less rainfall, and flea abundance on M. caroli was not related to soil hardness, vegetative height, ground cover by litter or by understory layer, or the abundance of M. caroli. Our study reveals the potential circulation of R. felis and other rickettsiae in eastern Taiwan, necessitating further surveillance of rickettsial diseases in this region. This is especially important because many novel rickettsioses are emerging worldwide.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science