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Molecular divergences of the Ornithodoras sonrai soft tick species, a vector of human relapsing fever in West Africa

Vial L., Durand P., Arnathau C., Halos L., Diatta G., Trape J.F., Renaud F.. 2006. Microbes and Infection, 8 : p. 2605-2611.

DOI: 10.1016/j.micinf.2006.07.012

The soft tick Ornithodoros sonrai is recognized as the only vector of Borrelia crocidurae causing human relapsing fever in West Africa. Its determination has been exclusively based on morphological features, geographical distribution and vector competence. Some ambiguities persist in its systematics and may cause misunderstanding about West African human relapsing fevers epidemiology. By amplifying and aligning 16S and 18S rDNA genes in O. sonrai specimens collected from 14 distinct sites in Senegal and Mauritania, we showed the existence of four genetically different subgroups that were morphologically and ecologically identified as belonging to the same species. Within O. sonrai, intraspecific polymorphism was high (pairwise divergence from 0.2% to 16.4%). In all cases, these four subgroups formed a monophyletic clade sharing a common ancestor with East African soft ticks that transmit Borrelia duttoni human relapsing fever. From amplification of the fiagellin gene of B. crocidurae we verified that all subgroups of O. sonrai were infected by B. crocidurae and may constitute vectors for this pathogen. All flagellin sequences were identical, refuting the hypothesis suggesting parallel evolution between O. sonrai and B. crocidurae. However, differences in infection rates were significant, suggesting different vector competences between subgroups of O. sonrai. © 2006 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.

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