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This study aimed to genetically characterize spotted fever group rickettsiae (SFGR) in questing ixodid ticks from Israel and to identify risk factors associated with SFGR-positive ticks using molecular techniques and geographic information systems (GIS) analysis. 1039 ticks from the genus Rhipicephalus were collected during 2014. 109/1039 (10·49%) carried SFGR-DNA of either Rickettsia massiliae (95), ‘Candidatus Rickettsia barbariae’ (8) or Rickettsia conorii (6). Higher prevalence of SFGR was found in Rhipicephalus turanicus (18·00%) compared with Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato (3·22%). Rickettsia massiliae was the most commonly detected species and the most widely disseminated throughout Israel (87·15% of all Rickettsia-positive ticks). GIS analysis revealed that Central and Northern coastal regions are at high risk for SFGR. The presence of ticks was significantly associated with normalized difference vegetation index and temperature variation over the course of the year. The presence of rickettsiae was significantly associated with brown type soils, higher land surface temperature and higher precipitation. The latter parameters may contribute to infection of the tick with SFGR. Health care professionals should be aware of the possible exposure of local communities and travellers to R. massillae. Molecular and geographical information can help professionals to identify areas that are susceptible to SFGR-infected ticks.
Bartonella infection was explored in wild animals from Israel. Golden jackals (Canis aureus), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis), southern white-breasted hedgehogs (Erinaceus concolor), social voles (Microtus socialis), Tristram's jirds (Meriones tristrami), Cairo spiny mice (Acomys cahirinus), house mice (Mus musculus) and Indian crested porcupines (Hystrix indica) were sampled and screened by molecular and isolation methods. Bartonella-DNA was detected in 46 animals: 9/70 (13%) golden jackals, 2/11 (18%) red foxes, 3/35 (9%) rock hyraxes, 1/3 (33%) southern white-breasted hedgehogs, 5/57 (9%) Cairo spiny mice, 25/43 (58%) Tristram's jirds and 1/6 (16%) house mice. Bartonella rochalimae and B. rochalimae-like were widespread among jackals, foxes, hyraxes and jirds. This report represents the first detection of this zoonotic Bartonella sp. in rock hyraxes and golden jackals. Moreover, DNA of Bartonella vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii, Bartonella acomydis, Candidatus Bartonella merieuxii and other uncharacterized genotypes were identified. Three different Bartonella strains were isolated from Tristram's jirds, and several genotypes were molecularly detected from these animals. Furthermore, this study reports the first detection of Bartonella infection in a southern hedgehog. Our study indicates that infection with zoonotic and other Bartonella species is widespread among wild animals and stresses their potential threat to public health.
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