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Fleas serve as arthropod vectors for several emerging and re-emerging infectious disease causing agents including, Rickettsia felis. Although the prevalence of R. felis infection in colonies of fleas has been examined, the influence of the R. felis infection on flea microbiota has not been investigated. We identified three colonies of cat fleas, Ctenocephalides felis, with varying prevalence of R. felis infection (Louisiana State University (LSU), 93.8; Professional Laboratory and Research Services Inc. (PLRS), 16.4; Elward II (EL), 0) and subsequently utilized polymerase chain reaction amplification, restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and sequencing of the 1.4-kb portions of 16S rRNA genes to examine the diversity of bacteria in the flea populations. A total of 17 different bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences were identified among the C. felis colonies. The prevalence of two Wolbachia species that were identified in each flea colony differed between colonies and R. felis-uninfected and -infected fleas. Species richness was unchanged among the R. felis-uninfected (LSU, PLRS and EL colonies) and -infected (LSU and PLRS colonies) fleas; however, between R. felis-uninfected and -infected fleas within both the LSU and PLRS colonies, R. felis-uninfected fleas have greater species richness. Diversity indices did not identify a difference in diversity between any of the flea samples. The interaction of endosymbionts within arthropods can widely impact the dissemination of vertically transmitted pathogenic bacteria; and the reciprocal may be true. These results suggest that carriage of R. felis has an impact on the richness of flea microbiota. © 2007 International Society for Microbial Ecology All rights reserved.

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ISME Journal

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