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Tick-raccoon associations and the potential for Lyme disease spirochete transmission in the coastal plain of North Carolina.

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Abstract

Raccoons (Procyon lotor) were live-trapped and examined for ticks from July 1990 to July 1993 in the coastal plain of North Carolina on Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina (USA). Five species of ixodid ticks were found on 351 (78%) of 449 raccoons. Amblyomma americanum was the most abundant tick found on raccoons. Dermacentor variabilis, Ixodes texanus, and Ixodes scapularis were frequently collected, while Ixodes cookei were rarely collected from raccoons. Tick burdens were not affected by the age, sex, or trap location of captured raccoons. Ticks parasitizing raccoons had varying seasonal patterns of abundance. Amblyomma americanum were generally collected from raccoons year around, but infestation intensities were greatest in summer from June to September. Dermacentor variabilis adults were most abundant in mid-summer while peak numbers of larvae were collected in the fall. Infestation intensities of Ixodes texanus larvae were greatest in fall and winter months while nymphs were most abundant in winter and spring. No males were collected from raccoons, but females were most frequently collected in the spring and declined in abundance in the summer with no specimens collected in the fall or winter. Numbers of 1. scapularis adults appeared to reach peak numbers in the fall while larvae and nymphs were most abundant on raccoons in winter. Spirochetes, Borrelia burgdorferi, were identified in a small percentage (0.2%) of host-seeking A. americanum nymphs and adults, and I. scapularis adults by immunofluorescent antibody assays. Similarly, a small percentage (1.9%) of host-associated A. americanum, D. variabilis, I. texanus and I. cookei contained B. burgdorferi. Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes were cultured from the blood of 23 (26%) of 87 raccoons.

J Wildl Dis. 1997 Jan;33(1):28-39. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, Non-P.H.S.; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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