Prevalence and molecular characterization of ticks and tick-borne pathogens of one-humped camels (Camelus dromedarius) in Nigeria
Background Ticks are hematophagous arthropods responsible for maintenance and transmission of several pathogens of veterinary and medical importance. Current knowledge on species diversity and pathogens transmitted by ticks infesting camels in Nigeria is limited. Therefore, the aim of this study was to unravel the status of ticks and tick-borne pathogens of camels in Nigeria. Methods Blood samples (n = 176) and adult ticks (n = 593) were collected from one-humped camels (Camelus dromedarius) of both sexes in three locations (Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto states) in north-western Nigeria and screened for the presence of Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., Anaplasma marginale, Anaplasma spp. and Coxiella-like organisms using molecular techniques. All ticks were identified to species level using a combination of morphological and molecular methods. Results Ticks comprised the three genera Hyalomma, Amblyomma and Rhipicephalus. Hyalomma dromedarii was the most frequently detected tick species (n = 465; 78.4%) while Amblyomma variegatum (n = 1; 0.2%) and Rhipicephalus evertsi evertsi (n = 1; 0.2%) were less frequent. Other tick species included H. truncatum (n = 87; 14.7%), H. rufipes (n = 19; 3.2%), H. impeltatum (n = 18; 3.0%) and H. impressum (n = 2; 0.3%). The minimum infection rates of tick-borne pathogens in 231 tick pools included Rickettsia aeschlimannii (n = 51; 8.6%); Babesia species, (n = 4; 0.7%) comprising of B. occultans (n = 2), B. caballi (n = 1) and Babesia sp. (n = 1); Coxiella burnetii (n = 17; 2.9%); and endosymbionts in ticks (n = 62; 10.5%). We detected DNA of “Candidatus Anaplasma camelli” in 40.3% of the blood samples of camels. Other tick-borne pathogens including Anaplasma marginale were not detected. Analysis of risk factors associated with both tick infestation and infection with Anaplasma spp. in the blood indicated that age and body condition scores of the camels were significant (P < 0.05) risk factors while gender was not. Conclusions This study reports low to moderate prevalence rates of selected tick-borne pathogens associated with camels and their ticks in north-western Nigeria. The presence of zoonotic R. aeschlimannii emphasizes the need for a concerted tick control programme in Nigeria.