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Isolation and characterization of a novel Borrelia group of tick-borne borreliae from imported reptiles and their associated ticks


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The members of the genus Borrelia are transmitted by arthropods and known to be infectious to vertebrates. Here we found isolates and DNAs belonging to the Borrelia turcica and unknown Borrelia species from imported reptiles and their ectoparasites. The Borrelia strains were isolated from blood and multiple organs of exotic tortoises, and were experimentally infectious to captive-bred tortoises. These findings suggest that these tortoises may be a candidate as the reservoir host of the Borrelia species. In this study, the Borrelia strains were also isolated from and/or detected in hard-bodied ticks, Amblyomma ticks and Hyalomma ticks. In some of these ticks, immunofluorescence imaging analysis revealed that the Borrelia had also invaded into the tick salivary glands. Accordingly, these ticks were expected to be a potential vector of the Borrelia species. Sequencing analyses of both housekeeping genes (flaB gene, gyrB gene and 16S rDNA gene) and 23S rRNA gene-16S rRNA gene intergenic spacer region revealed that these Borrelia strains formed a monophyletic group that was independent from two other Borrelia groups, Lyme disease Borrelia and relapsing fever Borrelia. From these results, the novel group of Borrelia comprises the third major group of arthropod-transmitted borreliae identified to date.