Rickettsia prowazekii-rickettsia prowazekii is a species of gram negative, alpha proteobacteria, obligate intracellular parasitic, aerobic bacteria that is the etiologic agent of epidemic typhus, transmitted in the feces of lice. in north america, the main reservoir for r. prowazekii is the flying squirrel. r. prowazekii is often surrounded by a protein microcapsular layer and slime layer; the natural life cycle of the bacterium generally involves a vertebrate and an invertebrate host, usually an arthropod, typically the human body louse. a form of r.. prowazekii that exists in the feces of arthropods remains stably infective for months. r. prowazekii also appears to be the closest free-living relative of mitochondria, based on genome sequencing.