Background: Ticks are vectors and important reservoirs for microbial agents that cause disease in humans and animals. Among these pathogens, the members of Rickettsia species play an important role in public health.
Aim and Methods: One hundred twenty-nine ticks belonging to four tick species (Ixodes ricinus, Rhipicephalus turanicus, Dermacentor marginatus, and Haemaphysalis punctata) were collected at different sites of the Insugherata Natural Reserve, localized in the urban area of Rome, Italy. Questing ticks were tested by PCR for Rickettsia spp., amplifying partial gene of ompA.
Results: Forty-six ticks were found to be infected with Rickettsia species. Five SFG rickettsiae were identified: three human pathogens Rickettsia conorii, Rickettsia massiliae and Rickettsia aeschlimannii, and two putative new strains Rickettsia sp. strain RM1 and Rickettsia sp. strain RM2. The phylogenetic analysis of partial gene sequences of ompA, gltA, and 17-kd antigen showed that they clustered with several rickettsiae with unidentified pathogenicity. However, Rickettsia sp. strain RM1 and Rickettsia sp. strain RM2 clustered in a statistically supported clade with R. massiliae, and R. monacensis, respectively.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that Rickettsia species other than R. conorii are implicated in human disease in Italy.