Ticks are of considerable medical and veterinary importance because they directly harm the host through their feeding action and indirectly through vectoring many bacterial pathogens. Despite many ticks being known from Thailand, very little is known about the bacteria they may harbor. We report here the results of a survey of tick-associated bacteria in Thailand. A total of 334 individuals representing 14 species of ticks in five genera were collected from 10 locations in Thailand and were examined for the human pathogens, Borrelia, Francisella, Rickettsia, and the common arthropod endosymbionts, Wolbachia, by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay using specific primers. Rickettsial DNA was detected in 30% (9/30) of Amblyomma testudinarium (Koch, 1844) collected from Khao Yai National Park, Nakhon Nayok Province and 16.84% (16/95) of Hemaphysalis ornithophila (Hoogstraal and Kohls, 1959) collected from Khao Yai National Park, Nakhon Nayok Province and Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary, Chachoengsao Province. Rickettsial DNA was not detected in any of the other tick species and no DNA of Borrelia, Francisella, or Wolbachia was detected in any of 14 tick species. Phylogenetic relationships among the rickettsiae detected in this study and those of other rickettsiae were inferred from comparison of sequences of the 17-kDa antigen gene, the citrate synthase gene (gltA), and the 190-kDa outer membrane protein gene (ompA). Results indicated that the three Thai rickettsiae detected in this study represent new rickettsial genotypes and form a separate cluster among the spotted fever group rickettsiae.
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Vol. 40 • No. 2