We propose genetic guidelines for the classification of rickettsial isolates at the genus, group, and species levels by using sequences of the 16S rRNA (rrs) gene and four protein-coding genes, the gltA, ompA, and ompB genes and gene D. To be classified as a member of the genus Rickettsia, an isolate should exhibit degrees of rrs and gita homology with any of the 20 Rickettsia species studied of ≥98.1 and ≥86.5%, respectively. A member of the typhus group should fulfill at least two of the following four criteria: Pairwise nucleotide sequence homologies with rrs, gltA, ompB, and gene D of either Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii of ≥99.4, ≥96.6, ≥92.4, and ≥91.6%, respectively. A member of the spotted fever group should either possess the ompA gene of or fulfill at least two of the following four criteria: pairwise nucleotide sequence homologies with rrs, gltA, ompB, and gene D of any member of this group of ≥98.8, ≥92.7, ≥85.8, and ≥82.2%, respectively. The existence of a distinct "ancestral" group should be questioned. To be classified as a new Rickettsia species, an isolate should not exhibit more than one of the following degrees of nucleotide similarity with the most homologous validated species: ≥99.8 and ≥99.9% for the rrs and gltA genes, respectively, and, when amplifiable, ≥98.8, ≥99.2% and ≥99.3% for the ompA and ompB genes and gene D, respectively. By use of our classification scheme, "Rickettsia heilongjiangii" belongs to a new species for which we officially propose the name Rickettsia heilongjiangensis sp. nov.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)