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Prevalences of Common Tick-borne Pathogens in Adult

Lone Star Ticks ( Amblyomma americanum ) and American
Dog Ticks ( Dermacentor variabilis ) in Kentucky

Summary by Andrew Emrazian, July 2016
Leading up to the data gathered in this paper, researched has already shown that many vectorborne diseases have transmitted by ticks. Some of these diseases include; Lyme disease, human
ehrlichiosis, and spotted fever rickettsiosis. There were some cases noted of Rocky Mountain Spotted
Fever in Kentucky, where the research is based in, before the experiment. This study was chosen
because these diseases have a large impact on morbidity and mortality not just in Kentucky but
Information will be gathered about ticks which will be extracted from a variety of wildlife in
Kentucky and will then be examined for infections of a variety of diseases, using molecular methods.
These ticks will also be classified by species. By doing this research, the prevalences of diseases in
ticks can be realized. This information will be valued in treating and diagnosing tick borne illnesses.
No hypothesis is directly stated, however, the main purpose for this paper is to describe
infection prevalence of tick-borne pathogens in Amblyomma americanum and Dermacentor variabilis
ticks collected in Kentucky. (Fritzen, et al., 2011)

Materials and Methods
Ticks samples were gathered during a period of time from by the United States Department of
Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (USDA APHIS-WS) in 6
counties in Kentucky. The ticks DNA was then obtained. The DNA was then used to search for
rickettsiae, ehrlichiae, and Borrelia spp.

The ticks DNA was first extracted out of a phosphate-buffered saline with a polymerase chain
reaction DNA column kit. For each bacterium that was being tested for, nested polymerase chain
reaction assay was used to amplify the genes that would be affected by the bacteria. Of course,
statistical analysis was also used.

During a 4-month period in 2008, 287 ticks were collected from 6 counties. Only adult ticks were
collected. There were only 2 species of tick gathered; Amblyomma americanum, Adult Lone Star
Ticks, and American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variblilis. 108, 37.6%, Adult Lone Star Ticks & 179, 62.4%,
American Dog Ticks. 69.4% of the Adult Lone Star ticks were female and 30.6% were male. 56.4% of
the American Dog ticks were female and 43.6% male. The infection rate was much higher in Adult
Lone Star Ticks than American Dog Ticks, 39% to 10% respectively. 20.9% of the ticks were infected.
14% of the total ticks had the infection Rickettsia spp, 0.4% were infected with B. lonestari, 4.9%
infected with E. Chaffeensis, 1.4% infected with E. ewingii. 4 Adult Lone Star Ticks each had 2
infectious bacteria. 80 ticks were removed from canines, 33 were removed from feral hogs, 165
removed from horses, 4 removed from raccoons, 1 removed from a deer, 1 from a human, and 3
from unknown. 33% of the ticks removed from the feral hogs were infected.
While there was not any mention of surprising or unexpected data, there was mention of
significant differences. 39% of Adult Lone Star Ticks had infections compared to 10% of American
Dog Ticks. Also among Adult Lone Star Ticks, male ticks were much more prevalent to infection.

The researchers asserted that these findings are similar to findings to surveys in Tennessee with
regards to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. They also claimed that results in Mississippi also

supported their findings of ticks infected with Rickettsia spp. They presented probable explanations
for infections in white tailed deer. The one tick collected from the white tailed deer was infected with
R. Amblyommii. The risk to public health from Adult Lone Star tick populations have been expanding
from the southeastern United States into the northeastern and midwestern United States partly
because of the increased density of their common host, the white-tailed deer (Fritzen, et al., 2011).
Rickettsia spp infections were higher in Tennessee in both species of ticks.
No conclusions were presented. Rather, it was noted that more research should be done. The
main message is that physicians need to know what diseases are prevalent in their geographic
locations since diseases can be vary by location.
80% of the ticks were collected in one county (Warren) in Kentucky. These results are very
specific to the region. There are 120 counties in Kentucky. There were no positive cases of R.
rickettsia. The researchers stated that this absence should be addressed. There was a high
prevalence of infection among feral hogs. It was speculated that this was because they spend so
much time grazing in shrub. These possible conclusions should be addressed in a further study. It was
noted that these results could be important in areas that multiple Rickettsia infection species found.

Fritzen, C. M., Huang, J., Westby, K., Freye, J. D., Dunlap, B., Yabsley, M. J., . . . Moncayo, A. C. (2011).
Infection Prevalences of Common Tick-borne Pathogens in Adult Lone Star Ticks
(Amblyomma americanum) and American Dog Ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) in Kentucky.