Ticks are important vectors of numerous pathogens causing illness, fatalities, and economic loss worldwide. Infectious disease episodes are increasing, and novel tick-borne pathogens are described frequently. Identification of novel reservoir hosts and vectors of tick-borne pathogens is essential if control measures are to be successful. In South Africa, the eastern rock sengi, Elephantulus myurus, hosts a number of tick species of veterinary importance. Despite this, there remains a paucity of information regarding the tick fauna of this species, the pathogen associations of ticks that it hosts, and its role as a reservoir host of tick-borne pathogens. The current study documents the tick fauna of E. myurus and sympatric small mammal species in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The pathogen associations of ticks hosted by elephant shrews were also investigated by PCR screening of engorged nymphs for a broad range of bacterial and protozoan tick-borne infections, including Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and members of Apicomplexa and the order Rickettsiales. There were marked differences in tick species and abundance among host species. Elephantulus myurus was heavily, and predominantly, parasitized by an as-yet undescribed tick species that we identify as Rhipicephalus sp. near warburtoni. PCR and sequence analysis revealed the presence of Anaplasma bovis in this tick species, which may have consequences for livestock production and conservation efforts in the area where this tick species occurs.

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