Identification of potential hosts and vectors of scrub typhus and tick-borne spotted fever group rickettsiae in eastern Taiwan.Med Vet Entomol 2011; 25(2):169-77MV
Scrub typhus and tick-borne spotted fever group (SFG) rickettsioses are transmitted by chiggers (larval trombiculid mites) and hard ticks, respectively. We assessed exposure to these disease vectors by extensively sampling both chiggers and ticks and their small mammal hosts in eastern Taiwan during 2007 and 2008. The striped field mouse Apodemus agrarius Pallas (Rodentia: Muridae) was the most common of the small mammals (36.1% of 1393 captures) and presented the highest rate of infestation with both chiggers (47.8% of 110 760) and ticks (78.1% of 1431). Leptotrombidium imphalum Vercammen-Grandjean & Langston (Trombidiformes: Trombiculidae) and immature Rhipicephalus haemaphysaloides Supino (Ixodida: Ixodidae) were the most abundant chiggers (84.5%) and ticks (>99%) identified, respectively. Immunofluorescent antibody assay revealed high seropositive rates of rodents against Orientia tsutsugamushi Hyashi (Rickettsiales: Rickettsiaceae), the aetiological agent of scrub typhus (70.0% of 437 rodents), and tick-borne SFG rickettsiae (91.9% of 418 rodents). The current study represents a first step towards elucidating the potential hosts and vectors in the enzootic transmission of O. tsutsugamushi and tick-borne SFG rickettsiae in Taiwan. Further studies should focus on characterizing pathogens in L. imphalum and R. haemaphysaloides, as well as the proclivity of both vectors to humans. Uncovering the main hosts of adult ticks is also critical for the prevention of SFG rickettsial infections.