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Rickettsia felis, a flea-associated rickettsial pathogen, has been identified in many tissues, including the digestive and reproductive tissues, within the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. We utilized transmission electron microscopy and polymerase chain reaction to identify R. felis in the salivary glands of fed fleas and further define the distribution of R. felis within the arthropod host. We identified Rickettsia-like organisms in salivary glands using electron microscopy. Sequence analysis of portions of the Rickettsia genus-specific 17-kDa antigen gene and R. felis plasmid confirmed the morphological identification of R. felis in cat flea salivary glands. This is the first report of R. felis in tissues critical for horizontal transmission of rickettsiae. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2008.

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Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases

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