Surveillance for Rickettsia spp. is urgently needed due to the recent emergence of many novel rickettsioses around the globe, but previous studies in Taiwan have been limited to small areas and no investigation of infections in vertebrate hosts has ever been attempted. We surveyed rickettsial infections systematically in small-mammal hosts trapped between 2006 and 2010 throughout Taiwan. Fragments of ompB and gltA genes in the liver, spleen, and kidney of mammals were targeted by nested polymerase chain reaction. We trapped 1375 individuals of 10 species, among which Rattus losea was the most common (54.6%), followed by Suncus murinus (20.6%) and Mus caroli (10.6%). The overall rate of Rickettsia infections in the liver, spleen, or kidney of 309 assayed small mammals was 60.5%, with a rate of infection ≥50% for each mammal species. DNA nucleotide sequences of 184 successfully sequenced genes were most similar to nine Rickettsia species: Rickettsia conorii, R. felis, R. japonica, R. raoultii, R. rickettsii, Rickettsia sp. IG-1, Rickettsia sp. TwKM01, Rickettsia sp. TwKM02, and R. typhi. Our results suggest that several novel Rickettsia spp. are common and widespread across various habitats throughout Taiwan and suggest the need for further study of emerging rickettsioses in Taiwan.
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