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For the first time in the country, the presence of two species of Rickettsia bacteria (R. felis and R. ricketsii) was identified in ticks collected from cattle off the coast of Chiapas, as reported by a research group headed by scientists from the Regional Center of Public Health Research (CRISP), located in Tapachula, Chiapas.

Rickettsia is a genus of bacteria that cause a wide range of diseases, known as Rickettsiosis, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Mediterranean boutonniere, murine typhus, epidemic typhus, among others.

Although lice and fleas can also transmit Rickettsia, tick-borne diseases have a greater impact on cattle, causing large economic losses; In 2013 alone, the authors explain, losses in milk and meat production due to tick infestation reached more than 500 million dollars. In addition to economic losses, ricketssiosis affects animals and humans. Between 2000 and 2020, five deaths were registered in people living in Chiapas.

Due to this background, the research group headed by CRISP and in which researchers from the universities of Sonora, Autónoma de Yucatán and Autónoma de Nuevo León and the State Laboratory of Public Health of Sonora also participated, decided to task of identifying the presence of Rickettsia rickettsii and Rickettsia felis and estimating the minimum infection rate of ticks that infest cattle on the coast of the state of Chiapas.

For this, the researchers carried out two collections of ticks in cattle in two different seasons, one in October 2021 and another in March 2022. Ten cattle ranches from five municipalities on the coast of Chiapas (Ciudad Hidalgo) were randomly selected. , Tapachula, Mapastepec, Pijijiapan and Tonalá).

Once the ticks were collected, they were processed to extract their DNA and to analyze it through PCR tests, a molecular laboratory technique that analyzes a fragment of DNA or RNA to find specific genes, such as those used for the detection of COVID-19. . In this study, PCR tests were shown to have a high specificity for detecting Rickettsia infections in ticks.

Analysis of the ticks’ DNA looked for a specific gene present in bacteria of the genus Rickettsia. The results showed that 86.86% of the ticks collected in the rainy season were infected.

According to the article, “the discovery of the circulation of Rickettsia species with the potential to cause serious diseases in the human population highlights the need to implement a surveillance program for this type of infection.”

Since livestock farming is the most important economic activity on the Chiapas coast, identifying the presence of Rickettsia reveals the possible risk to human health of more than 700,000 people, half of them living in rural areas and with a increased exposure to ticks.

The article “Molecular evidence of Rickettsia rickettsii and Rickettsia felis in ticks collected from cattle on the coast of Chiapas”, is part of the special issue “Emerging zoonotic diseases”, published in the journal Salud Pública de México , by the Regional Center for Research in Public Health (CRISP), part of the National Institute of Public Health (INSP).

Link to the article in free access:

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