Transmission of bacterial agents from lone star ticks to white-tailed deer

Andrea S Varela-Stokes
Journal of Medical Entomology 2007, 44 (3): 478-83
Amblyomma americanum (L.), the lone star tick, is an aggressive ixodid tick that has been implicated as a vector for several bacteria. Among these bacteria are the disease agents Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii, and the putative disease agent "Borrelia lonestari." The hypothesis in this study was that wild lone star ticks from northeastern Georgia are capable of transmitting all three agents to white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, a known reservoir host for E. chaffeensis. In this study, transmission of all three agents from wild caught lone star ticks to captive reared white-tailed deer was demonstrated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), culture, or serology. Two of three deer showed evidence of E. chaffeensis and E. ewingii infection by polymerase chain reaction assay; all three deer showed evidence of B. lonestari by PCR assay. E. chaffeensis was isolated in culture from both PCR-positive deer on multiple days. All three deer seroconverted to E. chaffeensis, whereas one deer seroconverted to B. lonestari. This study supports the role of lone star ticks and white-tailed deer as a vector and reservoir host for E. chaffeensis and E. ewingii and suggests for the first time, transmission of B. lonestari from lone star ticks to white-tailed deer.

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