Comparison of phenology and pathogen prevalence, including infection with the Ehrlichia muris-like (EML) agent, of Ixodes scapularis removed from soldiers in the midwestern and the northeastern United States over a 15 year period (1997-2012).
ABSTRACT: Since 1997, human-biting ticks submitted to the Department of Defense Human Tick Test Kit Program (HTTKP) of the US Army Public Health Command have been tested for pathogens by PCR. We noted differences in the phenology and infection prevalence among Ixodes scapularis ticks submitted from military installations in different geographic regions. The aim of this study was to characterize these observed differences, comparing the phenology and pathogen infection rates of I. scapularis submitted from soldiers at two sites in the upper Midwest (Camp Ripley, MN, and Ft. McCoy, WI) and one site in the northeastern US (Ft. Indiantown Gap, PA).From 1997 through 2012, the HTTKP received 1,981 I. scapularis from the three installations and tested them for Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti, Borrelia burgdorferi and the Ehrlichia muris-like (EML) agent using PCR; pathogen presence was confirmed via sequencing or amplification of a second gene target. Pathogen and co-infection prevalence, tick engorgement status, and phenology were compared among installations.Greater rates of A. phagocytophilum and Ba. microti infections were detected in ticks submitted from installations in Minnesota than in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, and the EML agent was only detected in ticks from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Midwestern ticks were also more likely to be co-infected than those from Pennsylvania. Both adult and nymphal ticks showed evidence of feeding on people, although nymphs were more often submitted engorged. Adult I. scapularis were received more frequently in June from Minnesota than from either of the other sites. Minnesota adult and nymphal peaks overlapped in June, and submissions of adults exceeded nymphs in that month.There were clear differences in I. scapularis phenology, pathogen prevalence and rates of co-infection among the three military installations. Seasonal and temperature differences between the three sites and length of time a population had been established in each region may contribute to the observed differences. The synchrony of adults and nymphs observed in the upper Midwest has implications for pathogen infection prevalence. The EML agent was only detected in Minnesota and Wisconsin, supporting the previous assertion that this pathogen is currently limited to the upper Midwest.
Project description:INTRODUCTION:The black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis (I scapularis), is now recognized as the deadliest tick vector in the United States. The Upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin and Minnesota, are endemic to a diversity of tick-transmitted infectious diseases. Although Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, still accounts for the majority of diagnosed infections, I scapularis is known to transmit other bacterial, viral, and parasitic agents. OBJECTIVE:To provide an overview of the array of pathogenic microorganisms carried by I scapularis ticks in the Upper Midwest. METHODS:A literature review was conducted to collect and analyze current information about I scapularis lifestyle, transmission, microorganisms carried by the arthropod vector, and the diseases that occur as a result of infections with these microorganisms in the Upper Midwest. RESULTS:Diagnosis of co-infection from tick-borne zoonosis in humans has increased over the last 2 decades. Since I scapularis can transmit multiple pathogens, it is clinically important because different diagnostic testing and treatment strategies may need to be implemented for a patient with I scapularis-borne infection(s). CONCLUSIONS:This review has concentrated on I scapularis-transmitted diseases affecting the Upper Midwest and has explored the ecology of the I scapularis vector and its role in pathogen transmission.
Project description:Ixodes scapularis is the vector of at least seven human pathogens in Minnesota, two of which are known to cause Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto and Borrelia mayonii). In Minnesota, the statewide incidence of Lyme disease and other I. scapularis-borne diseases and the geographic extent over which cases have been reported have both increased substantially over the last two decades. These changes correspond with an expanding distribution of I. scapularis over a similar time frame. Because the risk of exposure to I. scapularis-borne pathogens is likely related to the number of ticks encountered, we developed an acarological risk model predicting the density of host-seeking I. scapularis nymphs (DON) in Minnesota. The model was informed by sampling 81 sites located in 42 counties in Minnesota. Two main foci were predicted by the model to support elevated densities of host-seeking I. scapularis nymphs, which included the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area and counties in northern Minnesota, including Lake of the Woods and Koochiching counties. There was substantial heterogeneity observed in predicted DON across the state at the county scale; however, counties classified as high risk for I. scapularis-borne diseases and counties with known established populations of I. scapularis had the highest proportion of the county predicted as suitable for host-seeking nymphs (? 0.13 nymphs/100 m2). The model provides insight into areas of potential I. scapularis population expansion and identifies focal areas of predicted suitable habitat within counties where the incidence of I. scapularis-borne diseases has been historically low.
Project description:In the north-central United States, the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) is currently known to vector seven human pathogens. These include five bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia mayonii, Borrelia miyamotoi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia muris eauclairensis), one protozoan (Babesia microti) and one virus (Powassan). We sought to assess the prevalence and distribution of these pathogens in host-seeking nymphs collected throughout Minnesota, a state on the northwestern edge of the tick's expanding range, where reported cases of I. scapularis-borne diseases have increased in incidence and geographic range over the past decade. Among the 1240 host-seeking I. scapularis nymphs that we screened from 64 sites, we detected all seven pathogens at varying frequencies. Borrelia burgdorferi s.s. was the most prevalent and geographically widespread, found in 25.24% of all nymphs tested. Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Babesia microti were also geographically widespread, but they were less prevalent than Bo. burgdorferi s.s. (detected in 6.29% and 4.68% of ticks, respectively). Spatial clusters of sites with high prevalence for these three pathogens were identified in the north-central region of the state. Prevalence was less than 1.29% for each of the remaining pathogens. Two or more pathogens were detected in 90 nymphs (7.26%); coinfections with Bo. burgdorferi s.s. and either A. phagocytophilum (51 nymphs, 4.11%) or Ba. microti (43 nymphs, 3.47%) were the most common combinations. The distribution and density of infected ticks mirrors the distribution of notifiable tick-borne diseases in Minnesota and provides information on the distribution and prevalence of recently described human pathogens.
Project description:Songbirds widely disperse ticks that carry a diversity of pathogens, some of which are pathogenic to humans. Among ticks commonly removed from songbirds, the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, can harbor any combination of nine zoonotic pathogens, including Babesia species. From May through September 2019, a total 157 ticks were collected from 93 songbirds of 29 species in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Québec. PCR testing for the 18S gene of Babesia species detected Babesia odocoilei in 12.63% of I. scapularis nymphs parasitizing songbirds in Ontario and Québec; none of the relatively small numbers of Ixodes muris, Ixodes brunneus, or Haemaphysalis leporispalustris were PCR-positive. For ticks at each site, the prevalence of B. odocoilei was 16.67% in Ontario and 8.89% and 5.26% in Québec. Of 31 live, engorged I. scapularis larvae and nymphs held to molt, 25 ticks completed the molt; five of these molted ticks were positive for B. odocoilei. PCR-positive ticks were collected from six bird species-namely, Common Yellowthroat, Swainson's Thrush, Veery, House Wren, Baltimore Oriole, and American Robin. Phylogenetic analysis documented the close relationship of B. odocoilei to Babesia canis canis and Babesia divergens, the latter a known pathogen to humans. For the first time in Canada, we confirm the transstadial passage of B. odocoilei in I. scapularis molting from larvae to nymphs. A novel host record reveals I. scapularis on a Palm Warbler. Our findings show that B. odocoilei is present in all mobile life stages of I. scapularis, and it is widely dispersed by songbirds in Ontario and Québec.
Project description:Scant attention has been paid to Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, Ixodes scapularis, or reservoirs in eastern North Dakota despite the fact that it borders high-risk counties in Minnesota. Recent reports of B. burgdorferi and I. scapularis in North Dakota, however, prompted a more detailed examination. Spirochetes cultured from the hearts of five rodents trapped in Grand Forks County, ND, were identified as B. burgdorferi sensu lato through sequence analyses of the 16S rRNA gene, the 16S rRNA gene-ileT intergenic spacer region, flaB, ospA, ospC, and p66. OspC typing revealed the presence of groups A, B, E, F, L, and I. Two rodents were concurrently carrying multiple OspC types. Multilocus sequence typing suggested the eastern North Dakota strains are most closely related to those found in neighboring regions of the upper Midwest and Canada. BALB/c mice were infected with B. burgdorferi isolate M3 (OspC group B) by needle inoculation or tick bite. Tibiotarsal joints and ear pinnae were culture positive, and B. burgdorferi M3 was detected by quantitative PCR (qPCR) in the tibiotarsal joints, hearts, and ear pinnae of infected mice. Uninfected larval I. scapularis ticks were able to acquire B. burgdorferi M3 from infected mice; M3 was maintained in I. scapularis during the molt from larva to nymph; and further, M3 was transmitted from infected I. scapularis nymphs to naive mice, as evidenced by cultures and qPCR analyses. These results demonstrate that isolate M3 is capable of disseminated infection by both artificial and natural routes of infection. This study confirms the presence of unique (nonclonal) and infectious B. burgdorferi populations in eastern North Dakota.
Project description:Questing ticks were surveyed by dragging in forested habitats within the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania for four consecutive summers (2015-2018). A high level of inter-annual variation was found in the density of blacklegged tick nymphs, Ixodes scapularis Say, with a high density of host-seeking nymphs (DON) in summer 2015 and 2017 and a relatively low DON in summer 2016 and 2018. Very few American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis Say) and Ixodes cookei Packard were collected. Lone star ticks (Amblyomma americanum L.) and longhorned ticks (Haemaphysalis longicornis Neumann) were not represented among the 6,398 ticks collected. For tick-borne pathogen surveillance, DNA samples from 1,721 I. scapularis nymphs were prepared from specimens collected in summers 2015-2017 and screened using qPCR, high resolution melting analysis, and DNA sequencing when necessary. The overall 3-yr nymphal infection prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi was 24.8%, Borrelia miyamotoi was 0.3%, Anaplasma phagocytophilum variant-ha was 0.8%, and Babesia microti was 2.8%. Prevalence of coinfection with B. burgdorferi and B. microti as well as B. burgdorferi and A. phagocytophilum variant-ha were significantly higher than would be expected by independent infection. B. burgdorferi nymphal infection prevalence is similar to what other studies have found in the Hudson Valley region of New York, but levels of B. microti and A. phagocytophilum variant-ha nymphal infection prevalence are relatively lower. This study reinforces the urgent need for continued tick and pathogen surveillance in the Lehigh Valley region.
Project description:During the spring in 2005 and 2006, 39,095 northward-migrating land birds were captured at 12 bird observatories in eastern Canada to investigate the role of migratory birds in northward range expansion of Lyme borreliosis, human granulocytic anaplasmosis, and their tick vector, Ixodes scapularis. The prevalence of birds carrying I. scapularis ticks (mostly nymphs) was 0.35% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.30 to 0.42), but a nested study by experienced observers suggested a more realistic infestation prevalence of 2.2% (95% CI = 1.18 to 3.73). The mean infestation intensity was 1.66 per bird. Overall, 15.4% of I. scapularis nymphs (95% CI = 10.7 to 20.9) were PCR positive for Borrelia burgdorferi, but only 8% (95% CI = 3.8 to 15.1) were positive when excluding nymphs collected at Long Point, Ontario, where B. burgdorferi is endemic. A wide range of ospC and rrs-rrl intergenic spacer alleles of B. burgdorferi were identified in infected ticks, including those associated with disseminated Lyme disease and alleles that are rare in the northeastern United States. Overall, 1.4[corrected]% (95% CI = 0.3 [corrected] to 0.41) of I. scapularis nymphs were PCR positive for Anaplasma phagocytophilum. We estimate that migratory birds disperse 50 million to 175 million I. scapularis ticks across Canada each spring, implicating migratory birds as possibly significant in I. scapularis range expansion in Canada. However, infrequent larvae and the low infection prevalence in ticks carried by the birds raise questions as to how B. burgdorferi and A. phagocytophilum become endemic in any tick populations established by bird-transported ticks.
Project description:Tick-borne diseases have doubled in the last 12?years, and their geographic distribution has spread as well. The clinical spectrum of tick-borne diseases can range from asymptomatic to fatal infections, with a disproportionate incidence in children and the elderly. In the last few years, new agents have been discovered, and genetic changes have helped in the spread of pathogens and ticks. Polymicrobial infections, mostly in Ixodes scapularis, can complicate diagnostics and augment disease severity. Amblyomma americanum ticks have expanded their range, resulting in a dynamic and complex situation, possibly fueled by climate change. To document these changes, using molecular biology strategies for pathogen detection, an assessment of 12 microbes (9 pathogens and 3 symbionts) in three species of ticks was done in Suffolk County, New York. At least one agent was detected in 63% of I. scapularis ticks Borrelia burgdorferi was the most prevalent pathogen (57% in adults; 27% in nymphs), followed by Babesia microti (14% in adults; 15% in nymphs), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (14% in adults; 2% in nymphs), Borrelia miyamotoi (3% in adults), and Powassan virus (2% in adults). Polymicrobial infections were detected in 22% of I. scapularis ticks, with coinfections of B. burgdorferi and B. microti (9%) and of B. burgdorferi and A. phagocytophilum (7%). Three Ehrlichia species were detected in 4% of A. americanum ticks. The rickettsiae constituted the largest prokaryotic biomass of all the ticks tested and included Rickettsia amblyommatis, Rickettsia buchneri, and Rickettsia montanensis The high rates of polymicrobial infection in ticks present an opportunity to study the biological interrelationships of pathogens and their vectors.IMPORTANCE Tick-borne diseases have increased in prevalence in the United States and abroad. The reasons for these increases are multifactorial, but climate change is likely to be a major factor. One of the main features of the increase is the geographic expansion of tick vectors, notably Amblyomma americanum, which has brought new pathogens to new areas. The clinical spectrum of tick-borne diseases can range from asymptomatic to fatal infections, with a disproportionate incidence in children and the elderly. In addition, new pathogens that are cotransmitted by Ixodes scapularis have been discovered and have led to difficult diagnoses and to disease severity. Of these, Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, continues to be the most frequently transmitted pathogen. However, Babesia microti, Borrelia miyamotoi (another spirochete), Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and Powassan virus are frequent cotransmitted agents. Polymicrobial infection has important consequences for the diagnosis and management of tick-borne diseases.
Project description:Ixodes scapularis is a vector of several human pathogens in the United States, and there is geographical variation in the relative number of persons infected with these pathogens. Geographically isolated populations of I. scapularis have established or are in the process of establishing in southern Canada. Knowledge of the genetic variation within and among these populations may provide insight into their geographical origins in the United States and the potential risk of exposure of Canadians to the different pathogens carried by I. scapularis.Part of the mitochondrial (mt) 16S ribosomal (r) RNA gene was amplified by PCR from 582 ticks collected from southern Canada, and Minnesota and Rhode Island in the United States. Sequence variation was examined in relation to the predicted secondary structure of the gene. Genetic diversity among populations was also determined.DNA sequence analyses revealed 52 haplotypes. Most mutational alterations in DNA sequence occurred at unpaired sites or represented partial compensatory base pair changes that maintained the stability of the secondary structure. Significant genetic variation was detected within and among populations in different geographical regions. A greater proportion of the haplotypes of I. scapularis from the Canadian Prairie Provinces were found in the Midwest of the United States than in other regions, whereas more of the haplotypes of I. scapularis from the Canadian Central and Atlantic Provinces occurred in the Northeast of the United States. Nonetheless, 58% of I. scapularis were of a haplotype that occurs in the Midwest and Northeast of the United States; thus, their geographical origins could not be determined.There is considerable genetic variation in the mt 16S rRNA gene of I. scapularis. There is some evidence to support the hypothesis that some lineages of I. scapularis in the Atlantic and Central Provinces of Canada may be derived from colonizing individuals originating in the Northeast of the United States, whereas those in the Prairie Provinces may be derived from individuals originating in the Midwest of the United States. However, additional genetic markers are needed to test hypotheses concerning the geographical origins of I. scapularis in Canada.
Project description:Tick microbiomes may play an important role in pathogen transmission. However, the drivers of microbiome variation are poorly understood, and this limitation has impeded mechanistic understanding of the functions of microbial communities for pathogen acquisition. The goal of this research was to characterize the role of the blood meal host in structuring the microbiome of Ixodes scapularis, the primary vector of Lyme disease in the eastern United States, and to determine if ticks that fed from different host species harbor distinct bacterial communities. We performed high-throughput 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing on I. scapularis nymphs that fed as larvae from known wildlife hosts: raccoon, Virginia opossum, striped skunk, red squirrel or gray squirrel. Using Analysis of Similarity, we found significant differences in the abundance-weighted Unifrac distance matrix among ticks fed from different host species (p?=? 0.048) and a highly significant difference in the weighted and unweighted Unifrac matrices for individuals within species (p?<? 0.01). This finding of associations between the blood meal host and I. scapularis microbiome demonstrates that the blood meal host may be a driver of microbiome variation that should be accounted for in studies of pathogen acquisition by ticks.