BACKGROUND: Rickettsiae are obligate intracellular bacteria responsible for many febrile syndromes around the world, including in sub-Saharan Africa. Vectors of these pathogens include ticks, lice, mites and fleas. In order to assess exposure to flea-associated Rickettsia species in Madagascar, human and small mammal samples from an urban and a rural area, and their associated fleas were tested.
RESULTS: Anti-typhus group (TGR)- and anti-spotted fever group rickettsiae (SFGR)-specific IgG were detected in 24 (39%) and 21 (34%) of 62 human serum samples, respectively, using indirect ELISAs, with six individuals seropositive for both. Only two (2%) Rattus rattus out of 86 small mammals presented antibodies against TGR. Out of 117 fleas collected from small mammals, Rickettsia typhi, a TGR, was detected in 26 Xenopsylla cheopis (24%) collected from rodents of an urban area (n = 107), while two of these urban X. cheopis (2%) were positive for Rickettsia felis, a SFGR. R. felis DNA was also detected in eight (31%) out of 26 Pulex irritans fleas.
CONCLUSIONS: The general population in Madagascar are exposed to rickettsiae, and two flea-associated Rickettsia pathogens, R. typhi and R. felis, are present near or in homes. Although our results are from a single district, they demonstrate that rickettsiae should be considered as potential agents of undifferentiated fever in Madagascar.
- murine typhus
- flea-borne spotted fever