The high prevalence and diversity of Chlamydiales DNA within Ixodes ricinus ticks suggest a role for ticks as reservoirs and vectors of Chlamydia-related bacteria

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2015 Dec;81(23):8177-82. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02183-15. Epub 2015 Sep 18.


The Chlamydiales order is composed of nine families of strictly intracellular bacteria. Among them, Chlamydia trachomatis, C. pneumoniae, and C. psittaci are established human pathogens, whereas Waddlia chondrophila and Parachlamydia acanthamoebae have emerged as new pathogens in humans. However, despite their medical importance, their biodiversity and ecology remain to be studied. Even if arthropods and, particularly, ticks are well known to be vectors of numerous infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria, virtually nothing is known about ticks and chlamydia. This study investigated the prevalence of Chlamydiae in ticks. Specifically, 62,889 Ixodes ricinus ticks, consolidated into 8,534 pools, were sampled in 172 collection sites throughout Switzerland and were investigated using pan-Chlamydiales quantitative PCR (qPCR) for the presence of Chlamydiales DNA. Among the pools, 543 (6.4%) gave positive results and the estimated prevalence in individual ticks was 0.89%. Among those pools with positive results, we obtained 16S rRNA sequences for 359 samples, allowing classification of Chlamydiales DNA at the family level. A high level of biodiversity was observed, since six of the nine families belonging to the Chlamydiales order were detected. Those most common were Parachlamydiaceae (33.1%) and Rhabdochlamydiaceae (29.2%). "Unclassified Chlamydiales" (31.8%) were also often detected. Thanks to the huge amount of Chlamydiales DNA recovered from ticks, this report opens up new perspectives on further work focusing on whole-genome sequencing to increase our knowledge about Chlamydiales biodiversity. This report of an epidemiological study also demonstrates the presence of Chlamydia-related bacteria within Ixodes ricinus ticks and suggests a role for ticks in the transmission of and as a reservoir for these emerging pathogenic Chlamydia-related bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlamydiales / classification
  • Chlamydiales / genetics
  • Chlamydiales / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Disease Reservoirs / microbiology*
  • Disease Vectors*
  • Ixodes / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / analysis
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Switzerland


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S