Identification and characterization of Orientia chuto in trombiculid chigger mites collected from wild rodents in Kenya

Clement Masakhwe, Piyada Linsuwanon, Gathii Kimita, Beth Mutai, Surachai Leepitakrat, Santos Yalwala, David Abuom, Nutthanun Auysawasi, Tom Gilbreath, Elizabeth Wanja, John Waitumbi

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40 Scopus citations


We present data that concurs with the reported geographical expansion of scrub typhus outside the “Tsutsugamushi Triangle” and addition of Orientia chuto as a second species in the Orientia genus. Wild rodents were caught in Marigat, Baringo County, Kenya, and ectoparasites, including chiggers, were recovered. Rodent and chigger species were identified by taxonomic features. DNA was extracted from the chiggers and used to amplify and/or sequence the 47-kDa high temperature transmembrane protein (TSA47), the 56-kDa type-specific antigen (TSA56), and the 16S rRNA (rrs) Orientia genes. The main rodent hosts identified were Acomys wilsoni, Crocidura sp., and Mastomys natalensis, which accounted for 59.2% of the total collection. Of these, A. wilsoni and M. natalensis harbored most of the chiggers that belonged to the Neotrombicula and Microtrombicula genera. A pool of chiggers from one of M. natalensis was positive for Orientia by TSA47 PCR, but Orientia did not amplify with the TSA56 primers. On sequencing the 850 bp of the TSA47 gene, the closest phylogenetic relative was O. chuto, with 97.65% sequence homology compared to 84.63 to 84.76% for O. tsutsugamushi. 16S rRNA deep sequencing also revealed O. chuto as the closest phylogenetic relative, with 99.75% sequence homology. These results and the existing immunological and molecular reports are strongly suggestive of the existence of Orientia species in Kenya.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01124-18
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Chiggers
  • Neotrombicula and Microtrombicula chiggers
  • Orientia chuto
  • Orientia tsutsugamushi
  • Rodents
  • Scrub typhus


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