Prevalence of piroplasmids in ticks from active bobcat territories Open Access

Hensley, Jasmine Rebekah (2015)

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The tick-borne piroplasmids Babesia, Theileria, and Cytauxzoon spp. are agents of both human and animal diseases in a variety of mammalian and avian hosts. While ticks are the accepted vector of piroplasmids, the specific tick vectors for many species remain unknown. Furthermore, prevalence of these pathogens in relation to ecoregions is also largely unknown. This study was conducted to observe the relationship among ecoregions, tick species prevalence, and piroplasm prevalence. Ticks were collected May-August, 2014 from four sites: two in the Blue Ridge Mountain ecoregion and two in the Piedmont ecoregion in Georgia, USA. All sites were selected based on evidence of bobcat activity within the past year in order to optimize conditions for the collection of Cytauxzoon felis, which is the most rarely detected of these piroplasms. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays specific to piroplasms were used to test the 263 ticks collected. The three species of ticks studied were Amblyomma americanum (n=72), Dermacentor variabilis (n=104), and Amblyomma maculatum (n=87). The prevalence of both Amblomma spp. was higher in the Piedmont, while D. variabilis prevalence did not vary between ecoregions (Fisher's exact test, p<0.0001). Piroplasms were detected in 15 (5.7%) ticks, with Theileria spp. in six (2.3%), Cytauxzoon spp. in zero (0%), and Babesia spp. in two (0.8%). In addition, an unknown organism was detected in seven (2.7%) ticks, which may be a novel piroplasmid. No difference in piroplasm prevalence between ecoregions was detected (Fisher's exact test, p<0.0001). To my knowledge, this report of Babesia in A. maculatum is the first documentation of any piroplasmid in this tick species.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Materials and Methods 3

Collection Site Identification 3

Tick Collection and Identification 4

DNA Extraction 4

Polymerase Chain Reaction 4

Sequencing 5

Data Analysis 6

Results 6

Discussion 8

Literature Cited 11

Figures 16

Figure 1 16

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Figure 5 20

Tables 21

Table 1 21

Table 2 21

Table 3 22

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