Phylogenetic profiling for zoonotic Ehrlichia spp. from ixodid ticks in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Olusesan Adeyemi Adelabu*, Benson Chucks Iweriebor, Anthony Ifeanyi Okoh, Larry Chikwelu Obi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Ticks are obligate hematophagous parasite of vertebrate that transmit a range of pathogenic microorganisms that can cause diseases in livestock and humans. The range of tick-borne disease causative agents infecting domestic animals and humans has recently increased. Several significant zoonotic tick-borne diseases such as ehrlichiosis among others are on the increase worldwide. This study was designed to investigate the occurrence of zoonotic Ehrlichia spp. from samples collected from livestock in selected communities in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Tick samples were manually collected from domesticated animals in selected homesteads. The ticks were morphologically identified to species and tested for Ehrlichia infection via polymerase chain reaction (PCR), using genus-specific disulphide bond formation protein (dsbA) gene primers. This was followed by sequence analysis of amplicons and phylogeny. Of the 1,200 ticks collected, Amblyomma hebraeum was most prevalent (n = 335; 27.9%), followed by Rhipicephalus appendiculatus (n = 274; 22.8%), Rhipicephalus decoloratus; (n = 224; 18.7%) and Rhipicephalus eversti eversti (n = 200, 16.7%). Ehrlichia DNA was detected in 19/1,200 (1.6%) of the screened DNA samples. A homology search of the generated sequences revealed a high percentage of identity between 95% and 98% with other homologous dsbA gene sequences of other Ehrlichia species in GenBank. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the obtained sequences clustered unambiguously with other Ehrlichia sequences from different geographical regions of the world. We concluded that Ehrlichial pathogens are vectored by the ticks collected from domesticated animals in the study areas, thus suggesting concern for public health, as some of the recovered pathogens are zoonotic in nature and could pose serious public health risk through human exposure to tick bites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1247-1256
Number of pages10
JournalTransboundary and Emerging Diseases
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Ehrlichia
  • South Africa
  • livestock
  • public health
  • ticks
  • zoonosis


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