Integrated morphological and molecular identification of cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) and dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) vectoring Rickettsia felis in central Europe

Vet Parasitol. 2015 Jun 15;210(3-4):215-23. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2015.03.029. Epub 2015 Apr 9.


Fleas of the genus Ctenocephalides are the most common ectoparasites infesting dogs and cats world-wide. The species Ctenocephalides felis and Ctenocephalides canis are competent vectors for zoonotic pathogens such as Rickettsia felis and Bartonella spp. Improved knowledge on the diversity and phylogenetics of fleas is important for understanding flea-borne pathogen transmission cycles. Fleas infesting privately owned dogs and cats from the Czech Republic (n=97) and Romania (n=66) were subjected to morphological and molecular identification and phylogenetic analysis. There were a total of 59 (60.82%) cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis felis), 30 (30.93%) dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis), 7 (7.22%) European chicken fleas (Ceratophyllus gallinae) and 1 (1.03%) northern rat flea (Nosopsyllus fasciatus) collected in the Czech Republic. Both C. canis and C. felis felis were identified in Romania. Mitochondrial DNA sequencing at the cox1 gene on a cohort of 40 fleas revealed the cosmopolitan C. felis felis clade represented by cox1 haplotype 1 is present in the Czech Republic. A new C. felis felis clade from both the Czech Republic and Romania is also reported. A high proportion of C. canis was observed from dogs and cats in the current study and phylogeny revealed that C. canis forms a sister clade to the oriental cat flea Ctenocephalides orientis (syn. C. felis orientis). Out of 33 fleas tested, representing C. felis felis, C. canis and Ce. gallinae, 7 (21.2%) were positive for R. felis using diagnostic real-time PCR targeting the gltA gene and a conventional PCR targeting the ompB gene. No samples tested positive for Bartonella spp. using a diagnostic real-time PCR assay targeting ssrA gene. This study confirms high genetic diversity of C. felis felis globally and serves as a foundation to understand the implication for zoonotic disease carriage and transmission by the flea genus Ctenocephalides.

Keywords: Arthropod; Bartonella; Siphonaptera; Taxonomy; Zoonosis; cox1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cat Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cat Diseases / parasitology
  • Cats
  • Ctenocephalides / classification*
  • Ctenocephalides / genetics
  • Ctenocephalides / microbiology
  • Czech Republic / epidemiology
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Dog Diseases / parasitology
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Flea Infestations / epidemiology
  • Flea Infestations / veterinary*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Haplotypes
  • Insect Vectors / classification*
  • Insect Vectors / genetics
  • Insect Vectors / microbiology
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Rickettsia felis / physiology*
  • Romania / epidemiology
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / veterinary

Associated data

  • GENBANK/KP684188
  • GENBANK/KP684189
  • GENBANK/KP684190
  • GENBANK/KP684191
  • GENBANK/KP684192
  • GENBANK/KP684193
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  • GENBANK/KP684198
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