Ultrastructural and genetic evidence of a Reptilian tick, Aponomma hydrosauri, as a host of Rickettsia honei in Australia: Possible transovarial transmission

Ted Whitworth, Vsevolod Popov, Violet Han, Donald Bouyer, John Stenos, Stephen Graves, Lucy Ndip, David Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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In 1993, a novel rickettsia was isolated from the blood of inhabitants of Flinders Island, Australia, with acute febrile illnesses. This rickettsia was found to be a new species of spotted fever group (SFG) rickettsia, eventually named Rickettsia honei. The suspected ectoparasite vector of this rickettsia has yet to be identified. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the presence of this rickettsial species in a suspected tick vector, Aponomma hydrosauri, by DNA sequencing and electron microscopy (EM). Ticks collected from an Australian blue-tongued lizard on Flinders Island and a copperhead snake in Tasmania were demonstrated to be infected with R. honei by PCR, DNA sequencing, and EM. Rickettsiae were found in ultrathin sections of salivary glands, malpighian tubules, and midgut epithelial cells. In a previous study with a R. honei-infected tick from Flinders Island, rickettsiae were found in the nuclei of midgut epithelial cells, and EM also revealed the presence of rickettsiae in the cytosol of oocytes and immature eggs, suggesting transovarial transmission. These results implicate A. hydrosauri as a possible host of R. honei on Flinders Island and Tasmania and also provide evidence favoring transovarial maintenance of R. honei.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-74
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2003



  • Aponomma hydrosauri
  • Rickettsia honei
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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