Background: Despite the increasingly recognized eco-epidemiological significance of bats, data from molecular analyses of vector-borne bacteria in bat ectoparasites are lacking from several regions of the Old and New Worlds. Methods: During this study, six species of ticks (630 specimens) were collected from bats in Hungary, Romania, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, China, Vietnam and Mexico. DNA was extracted from these ticks and analyzed for vector-borne bacteria with real-time PCRs (screening), as well as conventional PCRs and sequencing (for pathogen identification), based on the amplification of various genetic markers. Results: In the screening assays, Rickettsia DNA was only detected in bat soft ticks, whereas Anaplasma phagocytophilum and haemoplasma DNA were present exclusively in hard ticks. Bartonella DNA was significantly more frequently amplified from hard ticks than from soft ticks of bats. In addition to Rickettsia helvetica detected by a species-specific PCR, sequencing identified four Rickettsia species in soft ticks, including a Rickettsia africae-like genotype (in association with a bat species, which is not known to migrate to Africa), three haemotropic Mycoplasma genotypes in Ixodes simplex, and Bartonella genotypes in I. ariadnae and I. vespertilionis. Conclusions: Rickettsiae (from both the spotted fever and the R. felis groups) appear to be associated with soft rather than hard ticks of bats, as opposed to bartonellae. Two tick-borne zoonotic pathogens (R. helvetica and A. phagocytophilum) have been detected for the first time in bat ticks. The present findings add Asia (China) to the geographical range of R. lusitaniae, as well as indicate the occurrence of R. hoogstraalii in South Africa. This is also the first molecular evidence for the autochthonous occurrence of a R. africae-like genotype in Europe. Bat haemoplasmas, which are closely related to haemoplasmas previously identified in bats in Spain and to "Candidatus Mycoplasma haemohominis", are reported here for the first time from Central Europe and from any bat tick.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases