Disease agents in Amblyomma americanum from northeastern Georgia

A S Varela, V A Moore, S E Little
Journal of Medical Entomology 2004, 41 (4): 753-9
Amblyomma americanum (lone star tick) is known or suspected to vector several organisms that are implicated as human pathogens, including Ehrlichia chaffeensis, E. ewingii, and Borrelia lonestari. These three agents have also been detected in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Because northeastern Georgia has a high abundance of both lone star ticks and white-tailed deer, and one of these organisms, E. chaffeensis, is already known to be endemic in the area, we assayed individual adult A. americanum, collected during the spring of 2001, 2002, and 2003, for these three organisms. A total of 400 ticks were dissected and tissues assayed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using Ehrlichia species-specific and Borrelia genus-wide primers. Of ticks tested, 2.0% (8/398) had evidence of E. chaffeensis, 4.8% (19/398) had evidence of E. ewingii, and 1.0% (4/398) had evidence of B. lonestari. Borrelia sp. spirochetes were also visualized by an indirect fluorescent antibody test, using an anti-flagellin monoclonal antibody (H9724), in a total of 10.7% (32/300) of ticks tested in 2003. These results reconfirm the presence of E. chaffeensis and establish evidence of E. ewingii and B. lonestari in questing adult A. americanum ticks from northeastern Georgia. Detection of at least two of the three organisms in ticks collected each year suggests that people in northeastern Georgia are at risk of infection with these organisms.

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