Fleas occur as ectoparasites of vertebrates around the world. The obligate intracellular bacterium Rickettsia felis has been detected globally in several flea species, causing a murine-typhus like disease in humans. In this study, a total of 150 hedgehog fleas (Archaeopsylla erinacei Bouché) were collected from 18 hedgehogs coming from four locations in southern Germany for the detection of R. felis. Individual DNA extracts were tested with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the amplification of the rickettsial ompB, gltA, ompA, and 16S rRNA genes. A total of 144 samples (96%) were positive using ompB PCR. Sequencing and phylogenetic analysis showed an organism very closely related to R. felis with 96% similarity. These results provided evidence that hedgehog fleas in Germany may be nearly 100% infected with a rickettsial species closely related to R. felis. Further studies are needed for its molecular and pathogenetic characterization. The hedgehog as a potential reservoir for the emergent pathogen R. felis or closely related strains also needs further study.
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