Molecular survey of neglected bacterial pathogens reveals an abundant diversity of species and genotypes in ticks collected from animal hosts across Romania
Background Ticks are transmitting a wide range of bacterial pathogens that cause substantial morbidity and mortality in domestic animals. The full pathogen burden transmitted by tick vectors is incompletely studied in many geographical areas, and extensive studies are required to fully understand the diversity and distribution of pathogens transmitted by ticks. Results We sampled 824 ticks of 11 species collected in 19 counties in Romania. Ticks were collected mainly from dogs, but also from other domestic and wild animals, and were subjected to molecular screening for pathogens. Rickettsia spp. was the most commonly detected pathogen, occurring in 10.6% (87/824) of ticks. Several species were detected: Rickettsia helvetica, R. raoultii, R. massiliae, R. monacensis, R. slovaca and R. aeschlimannii. A single occurrence of the zoonotic bacterium Bartonella vinsonii berkhoffii was detected in a tick collected from a dog. Anaplasma phagocytophilum occurred in four samples, and sequences similar to Anaplasma marginale/ovis were abundant in ticks from ruminants. In addition, molecular screening showed that ticks from dogs were carrying an Ehrlichia species identical to the HF strain as well as the enigmatic zoonotic pathogen “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis”. An organism similar to E. chaffeensis or E. muris was detected in an Ixodes ricinus collected from a fox. Conclusions We describe an abundant diversity of bacterial tick-borne pathogens in ticks collected from animal hosts in Romania, both on the level of species and genotypes/strains within these species. Several findings were novel for Romania, including Bartonella vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii that causes bacteremia and endocarditis in dogs. “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” was detected in a tick collected from a dog. Previously, a single case of infection in a dog was diagnosed in Germany. The results warrant further studies on the consequences of tick-borne pathogens in domestic animals in Romania.