Lions (Panthera leo) are an endangered species threatened by illegal hunting, habitat loss, and infectious diseases. Little is known about the tick-borne pathogens that infect lions and could contribute to population declines. The objective of this study was to characterize Rickettsia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and Coxiella burnetii infections in 10 lions from the Fasano Safari Park in Italy by serology, polymerase chain reaction, and sequence analysis. Although animals did not show clinical signs of tick-borne diseases, evidence of infection with C. burnetii, spotted fever group Rickettsia sp., and A. phagocytophilum were found in 50%, 20%, and 10% of the lions, respectively. One of the lions tested positive for all three pathogens. This study is the first report of molecular evidence of infection with C. burnetii, Rickettsia sp., and A. phagocytophilum in lions and provides evidence that these felids become infected and serve as hosts for tick-transmitted bacteria.
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