Kelly PJ, Lucas H, Eremeeva ME, Dirks KG, Rolain JM, Yowell C, Thomas R, Douglas T, Dasch GA, Raoult D. Rickettsia felis, West Indies. Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 Mar;16(3):570-1.
A study examining levels of antibody to the spotted fever group of Rickettsial organisms in feral cats from a spay/neuter program on St. Kitts found that most (45/68) were seropositive for this group of bacteria. These bacteria are transmitted by ticks, and have been associated with disease in some animals. Interestingly, no ticks were found on any of the cats, but they were infested with fleas. Fleas are known to be the vector for one rickettsial organism, Rickettsia felis. This bacterium is not harmful to cats, but can cause spotted fever in humans. These investigators also looked for the organism itself in cat fleas, and found the organism in about 20% of the fleas they tested. This was the first identification of this organism in the Caribbean, and indicates cats may be sentinels for its presence in a particular locale. [MK]