Detection of spotted fever group Rickettsia spp. from bird ticks in the UK

R. I. Graham*, M. C. Mainwaring, R. Du Feu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReport/ Case Reportpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Migratory birds are known to play a role in the long-distance transportation of microorganisms. To investigate whether this is true for rickettsial agents, we undertook a study to characterize tick infestation in populations of the migratory passerine bird Riparia riparia (Passeriformes: Hirundinidae), the sand martin. A total of 194 birds were sampled and ticks removed from infested birds. The ticks were identified as female Ixodes lividus (Acari: Ixodidae) using standard morphological and molecular techniques. Tick DNA was assayed to detect Rickettsia spp. using polymerase chain reaction and DNA was sequenced for species identification. A single Rickettsia spp. was detected in 100% of the ticks and was designated Rickettsia sp. IXLI1. Partial sequences of 17-kDa and ompA genes showed greatest similarity to Rickettsia sp. TCM1, an aetiological agent of Japanese spotted fever-like illness, previously described in Thailand. Phylogenetic analysis showed that Rickettsia sp. IXLI1 fitted neatly into a group containing strains Rickettsia japonica, Rickettsia sp. strain Davousti and Rickettsia heilongjiangensis. In conclusion, this research shows that U.K. migratory passerine birds host ticks infected with Rickettsia species and contribute to the geographic distribution of spotted fever rickettsial agents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-343
JournalMedical and Veterinary Entomology
Issue number3
Publication statusPrint publication - 4 Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


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