Transovarial transmission of murine typhus rickettsiae in Xenopsylla cheopis fleas

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Science  01 Feb 1985:
Vol. 227, Issue 4686, pp. 543-545
DOI: 10.1126/science.3966162


It has been generally accepted that infected fleas do not pass on Rickettsia mooseri, or indeed any other known pathogen, to their progeny. It is reported here that such transovarial transmission does occur in laboratory-infected Xenopsylla cheopis fleas. By means of the direct fluorescent antibody test, Rickettsia mooseri was observed in cells of the hemolymph of infected fleas. As many as 11 percent of the adults and 2.9 percent of the larvae of the generation reared therefrom, had demonstrable rickettsiae. Moreover, batches of the F1 fleas were capable of transmitting the infection to more than 18 percent of the rats they infested. The data support the contention that Xenopsylla cheopis fleas play an important role in the maintenance of murine typhus in rats in nature.