Molecular detection of bacterial and parasitic pathogens in hard ticks from Portugal

Carla Maia, Andreia Ferreira, Mónica Nunes, Maria Luísa Vieira, Lenea Campino, Luís Cardoso

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40 Citations (Scopus)


Ticks are important vector arthropods of human and animal pathogens. As information about agents of disease circulating in vectors in Portugal is limited, the aim of the present study was to detect bacteria and parasites with veterinary and zoonotic importance in ticks collected from dogs, cats, and field vegetation. A total of 925 ticks, comprising 888 (96.0%) adults, 8 (0.9%) nymphs, and 29 (3.1%) larvae, were collected in 4 geographic areas (districts) of Portugal. Among those, 620 (67.0%) were removed from naturally infested dogs, 42 (4.5%) from cats, and 263 (28.4%) were questing ticks obtained from field vegetation. Rhipicephalus sanguineus was the predominant tick species, and the only one collected from dogs and vegetation, while all Ixodes ricinus specimens ( n= 6) were recovered from cats. Rickettsia massiliae and Rickettsia conorii were identified in 35 ticks collected from cats and dogs and in 3 ticks collected from dogs. Among ticks collected from cats or dogs, 4 Rh. sanguineus specimens were detected with Hepatozoon felis, 3 with Anaplasma platys, 2 with Hepatozoon canis, one with Anaplasma phagocytophilum, one with Babesia vogeli, one with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and one with Cercopithifilaria spp. Rickettsia helvetica was detected in one I. ricinus tick collected from a cat. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first time that Cercopithifilaria spp., Ba. vogeli, H. canis, and H. felis have been detected in ticks from Portugal. The wide range of tick-borne pathogens identified, some of zoonotic concern, suggests a risk for the emergence of tick-borne diseases in domestic animals and humans in Portugal. Further studies on these and other tick-borne agents should be performed to better understand their epidemiological and clinical importance, and to support the implementation of effective control measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-414
Number of pages6
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Cat
  • Dog
  • Ixodes ricinus
  • Portugal
  • Rhipicephalus sanguineus
  • Tick-borne pathogens


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