Free-ranging spur-thighed tortoises Testudo graeca, captured in different habitat types of Northern Tunisia from March to April 2017, were examined for tick infestation: 134/147 (91%) were infested. The overall infestation intensity and abundance was 8.5 and 7.8, respectively. From these tortoises, 1174 ticks were collected, of which 10% (n = 120) taken from 18 randomly-selected tortoises were identified at the species level; the remaining ticks were examined for the presence of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFv) by real time RT-PCR. Only adult Hyalomma aegyptium were found, suggesting a high degree of host specificity to tortoises. No CCHFv was detected in ticks. Considering the absence of CCHFv in Hyalomma aegyptium infesting its main host, the spur-thighed tortoise, this tick species is unlikely to play a major role in the epidemiology of CCHF. Therefore, more studies are needed to investigate the circulation of this arbovirus between livestock and other tick species from North Africa.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the US Civilian Research Fund and Development Foundation (CRDF) OISE-16-62883-1 to EZ and SD, the UK Biological Engagement Program (UKBEP), and in part by the British Charity Marwell Wildlife.
- Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus
- Hyalomma aegyptium
- North Africa
- Testudo graeca