13 September 2016
Rickettsia rickettsii is vectored by ticks, and some vertebrate hosts can be sources of infection to ticks during bacteremic periods. In Brazil, the main vector for R. rickettsii is the tick Amblyomma sculptum, a member of the A. cajennense complex. Horses, in turn, are one of the major hosts for A. sculptum. In this study, horses experimentally infected with R. rickettsii were assessed for clinical changes and their capability to transmit the infection to A. sculptum ticks.
Four horses were infected with R. rickettsii through either intraperitoneal injection or infestation with R. rickettsii-infected A. sculptum ticks. Simultaneously, the animals were infested with non-infected A. sculptum ticks. The horses were monitored for 30 days by clinical examination, hematological and biochemical tests, real-time PCR of blood for the detection of Rickettsia, and inoculation of blood in guinea pigs. IgG antibody titers were followed until the horses have shown seronegativity or until the end of the experiment. Uninfected ticks that fed on horses were subjected to real-time PCR and/or were fed on susceptible rabbits.
The horses showed no clinical, hematological or blood biochemical alterations, and bacteremia was not detected by real-time PCR or by inoculation of horse blood into guinea pigs. Anti- R. rickettsii antibodies were detected in horses from 10 days to 2 years after infection. Uninfected ticks, after feeding on infected horses, showed 2.1 % positivity in real-time PCR, but failed to transmit the infection to rabbits at a next feeding stage.