Screening for bacterial DNA in the hard tick Hyalomma marginatum (Ixodidae) from Socotra Island (Yemen): detection of Francisella-like endosymbiont

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M. Montagna
B. Chouaia
F. Pella
M. Mariconti
D. Pistone
M. Fasola
S. Epis *
(*) Corresponding Author:
S. Epis | sara.epis@guest.unimi.it

Abstract

Thirty-four adult ticks collected from livestock on Socotra Island (Yemen) were identified as Hyalomma marginatum using traditional morphological characteristics. Morphological identification was confirmed for all the collected specimens using a molecular approach targeting a fragment of the mitochondrial gene 12S rRNA. All the specimens were examined for the presence of tick-borne pathogens and the tick endosymbiont Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii using polymerase chain reaction. Three specimens out of the 34 analyzed tested positive to the presence of Francisella spp. leading to the first detection of these bacteria in H. marginatum on Socotra Island. The phylogenetic analyses conducted on a 660 bp fragment of the ribosomal gene 16S rRNA of Francisella spp. (including F. philomiragia as outgroup, the four subspecies of F. tularensis and the Francisella-like endosymbiont of ticks) confirm that the newly detected Francisella strains cluster into the Francisella-like endosymbionts of ticks. Interestingly, the detected Francisella-like endosymbiont, shows a different genotype to that previously isolated from H. marginatum collected in Bulgaria. No specimen was positive for the presence of Rickettsia spp., Coxiella burnetii, Borrelia burgdorferi or M. mitochondrii.

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