Lethal effect of Rickettsia rickettsii on its tick vector (Dermacentor andersoni)

M L Niebylski, M G Peacock, T G Schwan
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 1999, 65 (2): 773-8
Rickettsia rickettsii, the causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, was lethal for the majority of experimentally and transovarially infected Rocky Mountain wood ticks (Dermacentor andersoni). Overall, 94.1% of nymphs infected as larvae by feeding on rickettsemic guinea pigs died during the molt into adults and 88. 3% of adult female ticks infected as nymphs died prior to feeding. In contrast, only 2.8% of uninfected larvae failed to develop into adults over two generations. Infected female ticks incubated at 4 degreesC had a lower mortality (80.9%) than did those held at 21 degreesC (96.8%). Rickettsiae were vertically transmitted to 39.0% of offspring, and significantly fewer larvae developed from infected ticks. The lethal effect of R. rickettsii may explain the low prevalence of infected ticks in nature and affect its enzootic maintenance.


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