BACKGROUND: Rickettsiae are obligate intracellular bacteria responsible for many febrile syndromes around the world, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Vectors of these pathogens include ticks, lice, mites and fleas. In order to assess exposure to flea-associated Rickettsia species in Madagascar, human and small mammal samples from an urban and a rural area, and their associated fleas were tested.
RESULTS: Anti-typhus group (TGR)- and anti-spotted fever group rickettsiae (SFGR)-specific IgG were detected in 24 (39%) and 21 (34%) of 62 human serum samples, respectively, using indirect ELISAs, with six individuals seropositive for both. Only two (2%) Rattus rattus out of 86 small mammals presented antibodies against TGR. Out of 117 fleas collected from small mammals, Rickettsia typhi, a TGR, was detected in 26 Xenopsylla cheopis (24%) collected from rodents of an urban area (n = 107), while two of these urban X. cheopis (2%) were positive for Rickettsia felis, a SFGR. R. felis DNA was also detected in eight (31%) out of 26 Pulex irritans fleas.
CONCLUSIONS: The general population in Madagascar are exposed to rickettsiae, and two flea-associated Rickettsia pathogens, R. typhi and R. felis, are present near or in homes. Although our results are from a single district, they demonstrate that rickettsiae should be considered as potential agents of undifferentiated fever in Madagascar.
Bibliographical noteThis research was supported by the Wellcome Trust (RCDF and Senior Fellowship to ST, #081705 and #095171), the Institut Pasteur de Madagascar, and the Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System, a Division of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center [847705.82000.25GB.A0074].
- murine typhus
- flea-borne spotted fever