2022 journal article

Identification of microbial taxa present in Ctenocephalides felis (cat flea) reveals widespread co-infection and associations with vector phylogeny


By: C. Manvell, H. Berman, B. Callahan, E. Breitschwerdt, W. Swain, K. Ferris, R. Maggi, E. Lashnits

author keywords: Flea microbiome; Bartonella; Wolbachia; Rickettsia; Flea phylogenetics; Flea diversity; DNA barcoding; 16S NGS
Source: Web Of Science
Added: November 14, 2022

Abstract Background Ctenocephalides felis , the cat flea, is the most common ectoparasite of cats and dogs worldwide. As a cause of flea allergy dermatitis and a vector for two genera of zoonotic pathogens ( Bartonella and Rickettsia spp.), the effect of the C. felis microbiome on pathogen transmission and vector survival is of substantial medical importance to both human and veterinary medicine. The aim of this study was to assay the pathogenic and commensal eubacterial microbial communities of individual C. felis from multiple geographic locations and analyze these findings by location, qPCR pathogen prevalence, and flea genetic diversity. Methods 16S Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) was utilized to sequence the microbiome of fleas collected from free-roaming cats, and the cox1 gene was used for flea phylogenetic analysis. NGS data were analyzed for 168 individual fleas from seven locations within the US and UK. Given inconsistency in the genera historically reported to constitute the C. felis microbiome, we utilized the decontam prevalence method followed by literature review to separate contaminants from true microbiome members. Results NGS identified a single dominant and cosmopolitan amplicon sequence variant (ASV) from Rickettsia and Wolbachia while identifying one dominant Bartonella clarridgeiae and one dominant Bartonella henselae/Bartonella koehlerae ASV. Multiple less common ASVs from these genera were detected within restricted geographical ranges. Co-detection of two or more genera ( Bartonella, Rickettsia , and/or Wolbachia) or multiple ASVs from a single genus in a single flea was common. Achromobacter , Peptoniphilus , and Rhodococcus were identified as additional candidate members of the C. felis microbiome on the basis of decontam analysis and literature review. Ctenocephalides felis phylogenetic diversity as assessed by the cox1 gene fell within currently characterized clades while identifying seven novel haplotypes. NGS sensitivity and specificity for Bartonella and Rickettsia spp. DNA detection were compared to targeted qPCR. Conclusions Our findings confirm the widespread coinfection of fleas with multiple bacterial genera and strains, proposing three additional microbiome members. The presence of minor Bartonella, Rickettsia , and Wolbachia ASVs was found to vary by location and flea haplotype. These findings have important implications for flea-borne pathogen transmission and control. Graphical Abstract