Rickettsia felis is a bacteria that causes fever, muscle aches, rash and headache. It lives in African countries where malaria is also common. Until recently, it was believed to be transmitted by fleas and ticks, but new research shows there may be more to the story.
Diseases with fever symptoms are common in Africa, and therefore distinguishing between their types, symptoms and origins is critical. R. felis was originally identified and studied in places where “fevers of unknown origin” are common.
To learn how R. felis may be transmitted, scientists found mosquitoes known to carry malaria and fed them with blood carrying either R. felis bacteria or another types. They found the disease-causing R. felis bacteria in the mosquitoes after feeding them, and also observed the bacteria being transferred to neutral mediums, like cotton, via mosquito saliva.
Using mice, researchers were able to confirm the R. felis bacteria could be easily transferred to mammals and sicken them.
Further research in this region is needed to understand exactly how R. felis is transmitted, so that public health precautions can be used to reduce exposure to the bugs as well as the disease they carry.