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Profiling the bacterial microbiome of ticks that parasitise bandicoots in Australia

Egan, SiobhonORCID: 0000-0003-4395-4069 (2017) Profiling the bacterial microbiome of ticks that parasitise bandicoots in Australia. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Molecular methods have recently revealed novel organisms inhabiting native Australian ticks, some of which are potentially pathogenic due to their similarity to causes of known tick-borne diseases (TBDs) worldwide. Australian bandicoots (Order: Peramelemorphia) are hosts of ticks that are known to bite humans. The persistence of bandicoots in urban and peri-urban areas results in increased exposure of humans to bandicoot ticks, and the bacterial diversity of ticks parasitising bandicoots is therefore of public health interest and requires further investigation.

This study analysed 290 ticks parasitising bandicoots from New South Wales (NSW; n = 125), Queensland (QLD; n = 26), Northern Territory (NT; n = 15), Tasmania (TAS; n = 80), and Western Australia (WA; n = 44). A total of seven tick species (Haemaphysalis bancrofti, H. humerosa, Ixodes australiensis, I. fecialis, I. holocyclus, I. myrmecobii and I. tasmani) were identified from four Australian bandicoot species; the eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii), the long-nosed bandicoot (P. nasuta), the northern brown bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus), and the southern brown bandicoot (I. obesulus).

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) targeting the ubiquitous bacterial 16S rRNA gene was applied to a sub-sample of ticks (n = 66). Analysis of sequence data revealed the presence of Anaplasma, Borrelia, Ehrlichia and ‘Ca. Neoehrlichia’. Anaplasma bovis was detected in two ticks (H. bancrofti and H. humerosa) from the same bandicoot in NSW. A likely novel Ehrlichia sp. was identified from a single I. fecialis tick in WA. In addition to the confirmation of the recently described ‘Ca. Neoehrlichia arcana’ and ‘Ca. N. australis’ inhabiting I. holocyclus and I. tasmani from NSW and QLD, a novel ‘Ca. Neoehrlichia’ species was detected in ticks (I. australiensis and I. fecialis) from WA. Furthermore, sequences 98.8% similar to ‘Ca. Borrelia tachyglossi’ provide the first molecular description of Borrelia inhabiting ticks (H. humerosa and I. tasmani) parasitising Australian bandicoots.

This study has provided an interesting insight into the microbial communities present in ticks parasitising Australian bandicoots and raises questions about the potential for tick-associated illness in people parasitised by these ticks. An investigation into the characterisation, prevalence, pathogenicity and transmission dynamics of these candidate tick-borne pathogens is required to establish the significance of this study.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
United Nations SDGs: Goal 15: Life on Land
Supervisor(s): Oskam, Charlotte and Irwin, Peter
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