Several outbreaks of Rocky Mountain spotted fever have occurred in recent years in Colombian communities close to the border with Panama. However, little is known about rickettsiae and rickettsial diseases in eastern Panamanian provinces, the Darien Province and the Kuna Yala, located north of the endemic area in Colombia. In 2007, 289 ticks were collected in several towns from dogs, horses, mules, cows, and pigs. DNA was extracted from 124 Dermacentor nitens, 64 Bhipicephalus sanguineus, 43 Amblyomma ovale, 35 A. cajennense, 10 Boophilus microplus, 4 A. oblongoguttatum, and 9 A. cajennense nymphs. SYBR-Green polymerase chain reaction assays targeting a fragment of the OmpA and 16S rRNA genes were used for detection of DNA of the spotted fever group rickettsiae (SFGR) and Anaplasmataceae (Anaplasma and Ehrlichia), respectively. In total, 37.4% ticks were positive for SFGR, including 20.3% R. sanguineus, 27.9% A. ovale, 25.8% D. nitens, 50% B. microplus, 50% A. oblongoguttatum, and 100% A. cajennense. The presence of Rickettsia amblyommii DNA was confirmed by sequencing in A. cajennense, A. oblongoguttatum, A. ovale, B. microplus, and R. sanguineus. DNA of R. rickettsii was only detected in one D. nitens collected from a horse in Santa Fe, Darien Province. Prevalence of Anaplasmataceae varied from 6.3% in R. sanguineus to 26.5% in A. cajennense. DNA of Ehrlichia chaffensis was found in three D. nitens and three A. cajennense from horses. This is the first study providing molecular characterization and prevalence information on SFGR in ticks from these areas and thus will be helpful for future evaluations of the risk of rickettsial diseases for individuals living in this region.
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Vol. 46 • No. 4