Molecular Survey on Rickettsia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato, and Babesia spp. in Ixodes ricinus Ticks Infesting Dogs in Central Italy
Dogs are a common feeding hosts for Ixodes ricinus and may act as reservoir hosts for zoonotic tick-borne pathogens (TBPs) and as carriers of infected ticks into human settings. The aim of this work was to evaluate the presence of several selected TBPs of significant public health concern by molecular methods in I. ricinus recovered from dogs living in urban and suburban settings in central Italy. A total of 212 I. ricinus specimens were collected from the coat of domestic dogs. DNA was extracted from each specimen individually and tested for Rickettsia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Babesia spp., and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, using real-time and conventional PCR protocols, followed by sequencing. Sixty-one ticks (28.8%) tested positive for TBPs; 57 samples were infected by one pathogen, while four showed coinfections. Rickettsia spp. was detected in 39 specimens (18.4%), of which 32 were identified as Rickettsia monacensis and seven as Rickettsia helvetica. Twenty-two samples (10.4%) tested positive for A. phagocytophilum; Borrelia lusitaniae and Borrelia afzelii were detected in two specimens and one specimen, respectively. One tick (0.5%) was found to be positive for Babesia venatorum (EU1). Our findings reveal the significant exposure of dogs to TBPs of public health concern and provide data on the role of dogs in the circulation of I. ricinus-borne pathogens in central Italy.
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