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Study Shows A High Percentage of Ticks from A Florida Forest To Be Infected with Rikettsia

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Borrelia burgdorferi DNA absent, multiple Rickettsia spp. DNA present in ticks collected from a teaching forest in North Central Florida
 
Editor’s Note: This study suggests that Lyme “co-infections” such as Rikettsia may be just as, if not more prevalent in certain regions of the United States than Borrelia and/or other infections. More research is needed to determine this, however.
 
Abstract
 
Tick-borne diseases are an emerging public health threat in the United States. In Florida, there has been public attention directed towards the possibility of locally acquired Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, the causative agent of Lyme disease, in association with the lone star tick.
 
The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of ticks and the pathogens they carry and potentially transmit, such as B. burgdorferi, in a highly utilized teaching and research forest in North Central Florida.
 
Ticks were collected by dragging and flagging methods over a four month period in early 2014, identified, and tested by PCR for multiple pathogens including Anaplasma, Borrelia, Rickettsia, and Ehrlichia species. During the study period the following ticks were collected: 2506 (96.5%) Amblyomma americanum L., 64 (2.5%) Ixodes scapularis Say, 19 (0.7%) Dermacentor variabilis Say, and 5 (0.2%) Ixodes affinis Neuman.
 
Neither Borrelia spp. (0/846) nor Anaplasma spp. (0/69; Ixodes spp. only) were detected by PCR in any of the ticks tested. However, Rickettsia DNA was present in 53.7% (86/160), 62.5% (40/64), 60.0% (3/5) and 31.6% (6/19) of A. americanum, I. scapularis, I. affinis and D. variabilis, respectively. Furthermore, E. chaffeensis and E. ewingii DNA were detected in 1.3% and 4.4% of adult A. americanum specimens tested, respectively.
 
Although receiving an A. americanum bite is likely in wooded areas in North Central Florida due to the abundance of this tick, the risk of contracting a tick-borne pathogen in this specific area during the spring season appears to be low. The potential for pathogen prevalence to be highly variable exists, even within a single geographical site and longitudinal studies are needed to assess how tick-borne pathogen prevalence is changing over time in North Central Florida.
 
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.
 
Source: By K. Sayler, J. Rowland, C. Boyce, E. Weeks. Sep. 24, 2016. Borrelia burgdorferi DNA absent, multiple Rickettsia spp. DNA present in ticks collected from a teaching forest in North Central Florida. Ticks Tick Borne Dis. pii: S1877-959X(16)30163-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2016.09.016. [Epub ahead of print]
 

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