Molecular Detection of Rickettsia typhi in Cats and Fleas

Maria Mercedes Nogueras, Immaculada Pons, Ana Ortuño, Jaime Miret, Julia Pla, Joaquim Castellà, Ferran Segura

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Rickettsia typhi is the etiological agent of murine typhus (MT), a disease transmitted by two cycles: rat-flea-rat, and peridomestic cycle. Murine typhus is often misdiagnosed and underreported. A correct diagnosis is important because MT can cause severe illness and death. Our previous seroprevalence results pointed to presence of human R. typhi infection in our region; however, no clinical case has been reported. Although cats have been related to MT, no naturally infected cat has been described. The aim of the study is to confirm the existence of R typhi in our location analyzing its presence in cats and fleas.Methodology/Principal Findings:221 cats and 80 fleas were collected from Veterinary clinics, shelters, and the street (2001-2009). Variables surveyed were: date of collection, age, sex, municipality, living place, outdoor activities, demographic area, healthy status, contact with animals, and ectoparasite infestation. IgG against R typhi were evaluated by indirect immunofluorescence assay. Molecular detection in cats and fleas was performed by real-time PCR. Cultures were performed in those cats with positive molecular detection. Statistical analysis was carried out using SPSS. A p < 0.05 was considered significant.Thirty-five (15.8%) cats were seropositive. There were no significant associations among seropositivity and any variables. R typhi was detected in 5 blood and 2 cultures. High titres and molecular detection were observed in stray cats and pets, as well as in spring and winter. All fleas were Ctenocephalides felis. R typhi was detected in 44 fleas (55%), from shelters and pets. Co-infection with R. felis was observed. Conclusions: Although no clinical case has been described in this area, the presence of R. typhi in cats and fleas is demonstrated. Moreover, a considerable percentage of those animals lived in households. To our knowledge, this is the first time R. typhi is detected in naturally infected cats. © 2013 Nogueras et al.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere71386
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2013


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