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Concept: Acari


Overexpression of the transforming growth factor β family signalling molecule smad2 in the airway epithelium provokes enhanced allergen-induced airway remodelling in mice, concomitant with elevated levels of interleukin (IL)-25.

Concepts: Immune system, Asthma, Acari, Arachnid, Mite, House dust mite


BACKGROUND: Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM) has been described in the hard tick Ixodes ricinus and rodents as well as in some severe cases of human disease. The aims of this study were to identify DNA of CNM in small mammals, the ticks parasitizing them and questing ticks in areas with sympatric existence of Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus in Germany. METHODS: Blood, transudate and organ samples (spleen, kidney, liver, skin) of 91 small mammals and host-attached ticks from altogether 50 small mammals as well as questing I. ricinus ticks (n=782) were screened with a real-time PCR for DNA of CNM. RESULTS: 52.7% of the small mammals were positive for CNM-DNA. The majority of the infected animals were yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis) and bank voles (Myodes glareolus). Small mammals with tick infestation were more often infected with CNM than small mammals without ticks. Compared with the prevalence of ~25% in the questing I. ricinus ticks, twice the prevalence in the rodents provides evidence for their role as reservoir hosts for CNM. CONCLUSION: The high prevalence of this pathogen in the investigated areas in both rodents and ticks points towards the need for more specific investigation on its role as a human pathogen.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Mammal, Rodent, Ixodidae, Acari, Ixodes scapularis, Dermacentor variabilis, Ixodes holocyclus


BACKGROUND: Genomic resources within the phylum Arthropoda are largely limited to the true insects but are beginning to include unexplored subphyla, such as the Crustacea and Chelicerata. Investigations of these understudied taxa uncover high frequencies of orphan genes, which lack detectable sequence homology to genes in pre-existing databases. The ticks (Acari: Chelicerata) are one such understudied taxon for which genomic resources are urgently needed. Ticks are obligate blood-feeders that vector major diseases of humans, domesticated animals, and wildlife. In analyzing a transcriptome of the lone star tick Amblyomma americanum, one of the most abundant disease vectors in the United States, we find a high representation of unannotated sequences. We apply a general framework for quantifying the origin and true representation of unannotated sequences in a dataset and for evaluating the biological significance of orphan genes. RESULTS: Expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were derived from different life stages and populations of A. americanum and combined with ESTs available from GenBank to produce 14,310 ESTs, over twice the number previously available. The vast majority (71%) has no sequence homology to proteins archived in UniProtKB. We show that poor sequence or assembly quality is not a major contributor to this high representation by orphan genes. Moreover, most unannotated sequences are functional: a microarray experiment demonstrates that 59% of functional ESTs are unannotated. Lastly, we attempt to further annotate our EST dataset using genomic datasets from other members of the Acari, including Ixodes scapularis, four other tick species and the mite Tetranychus urticae. We find low homology with these species, consistent with significant divergence within this subclass. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that the abundance of orphan genes in A. americanum likely results from 1) taxonomic isolation stemming from divergence within the tick lineage and limited genomic resources for ticks and 2) lineage-specific genes needing functional genomic studies to evaluate their association with the unique biology of ticks. The EST sequences described here will contribute substantially to the development of tick genomics. Moreover, the framework provided for the evaluation of orphan genes can guide analyses of future transcriptome sequencing projects.

Concepts: DNA, Genomics, Lyme disease, Tick, Ixodidae, Acari, Arachnid, Amblyomma americanum


Chigger mites are parasites of rodents and other vertebrates, invertebrates, and other arthropods, and are the only vectors of scrub typhus, in addition to other zoonoses. Therefore, investigating their distribution, diversity, and seasonal abundance is important for public health. Rodent surveillance was conducted at 6 districts in Shandong Province, northern China (114-112°E, 34-38°N), from January to December 2011. Overall, 225/286 (78.7%) rodents captured were infested with chigger mites. A total of 451 chigger mites were identified as belonging to 5 most commonly collected species and 3 genera in 1 family. Leptotrombidium scutellare and Leptotrombidium intermedia were the most commonly collected chigger mites. L. scutellare (66.2%, 36.7%, and 49.0%) was the most frequently collected chigger mite from Apodemus agrarius, Rattus norvegicus, and Microtus fortis, respectively, whereas L. intermedia (61.5% and 63.2%) was the most frequently collected chigger mite from Cricetulus triton and Mus musculus, respectively. This study demonstrated a relatively high prevalence of chigger mites that varied seasonally in Shandong Province, China.

Concepts: Rat, Murinae, Rodent, Mouse, Acari, Arachnid, Muroidea, Harvest mite


Shrimp and house dust mite (HDM) allergies are common in Canadians. Often, both of these allergies occur in the same patient. This may be due to homology of tropomyosin or other potentially shared proteins. The aim of our study was to assess the frequency of house dust mite sensitization in a shrimp allergic Canadian population.

Concepts: Asthma, Canada, Acari, Arachnid, Mite, House dust mite, Ontario, Southern Ontario


The blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say, is the primary vector to humans in the eastern United States of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, as well as causative agents of anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Its close relative in the far western United States, the western blacklegged tick Ixodes pacificus Cooley and Kohls, is the primary vector to humans in that region of the Lyme disease and anaplasmosis agents. Since 1991, when standardized surveillance and reporting began, Lyme disease case counts have increased steadily in number and in geographical distribution in the eastern United States. Similar trends have been observed for anaplasmosis and babesiosis. To better understand the changing landscape of risk of human exposure to disease agents transmitted by I. scapularis and I. pacificus, and to document changes in their recorded distribution over the past two decades, we updated the distribution of these species from a map published in 1998. The presence of I. scapularis has now been documented from 1,420 (45.7%) of the 3,110 continental United States counties, as compared with 111 (3.6%) counties for I. pacificus. Combined, these vectors of B. burgdorferi and other disease agents now have been identified in a total of 1,531 (49.2%) counties spread across 43 states. This marks a 44.7% increase in the number of counties that have recorded the presence of these ticks since the previous map was presented in 1998, when 1,058 counties in 41 states reported the ticks to be present. Notably, the number of counties in which I. scapularis is considered established (six or more individuals or one or more life stages identified in a single year) has more than doubled since the previous national distribution map was published nearly two decades ago. The majority of county status changes occurred in the North-Central and Northeastern states, whereas the distribution in the South remained fairly stable. Two previously distinct foci for I. scapularis in the Northeast and North-Central states appear to be merging in the Ohio River Valley to form a single contiguous focus. Here we document a shifting landscape of risk for human exposure to medically important ticks and point to areas of re-emergence where enhanced vector surveillance and control may be warranted.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Tick, Acari, Ixodes scapularis, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia, Babesiosis, Ixodes


The scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, is an obligate parasite of the skin that infects humans and other animal species, causing scabies, a contagious disease characterized by extreme itching. Scabies infections are a major health problem, particularly in remote Indigenous communities in Australia, where co-infection of epidermal scabies lesions by Group A Streptococci or Staphylococcus aureus is thought to be responsible for the high rate of rheumatic heart disease and chronic kidney disease. We collected and separately sequenced mite DNA from several pools of thousands of whole mites from a porcine model of scabies (S. scabiei var. suis) and two human patients (S. scabiei var. hominis) living in different regions of northern Australia. Our sequencing samples the mite and its metagenome, including the mite gut flora and the wound micro-environment. Here, we describe the mitochondrial genome of the scabies mite. We developed a new de novo assembly pipeline based on a bait-and-reassemble strategy, which produced a 14 kilobase mitochondrial genome sequence assembly. We also annotated 35 genes and have compared these to other Acari mites. We identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and used these to infer the presence of six haplogroups in our samples, Remarkably, these fall into two closely-related clades with one clade including both human and pig varieties. This supports earlier findings that only limited genetic differences may separate some human and animal varieties, and raises the possibility of cross-host infections. Finally, we used these mitochondrial haplotypes to show that the genetic diversity of individual infections is typically small with 1-3 distinct haplotypes per infestation.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Virus, Sarcoptes scabiei, Population genetics, Acari, Scabies


The evolution of the IgE response to the numerous allergen molecules of Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus is still unknown.

Concepts: Immune system, Asthma, Acari, Arachnid, Mite, House dust mite


Fossil mesostigmatid mites (Acari: Parasitiformes: Mesostigmata) are extremely rare, and specimens from only nine families, including four named species, have been described so far. A new record of Myrmozercon sp. described here from Eocene (ca 44-49 Myr) Baltic amber represents the first-and so far only-fossil example of the derived, extant family Laelapidae. Significantly, modern species of this genus are habitually myrmecophilous and the fossil mite described here is preserved attached to the head of the dolichoderine ant Ctenobethylus goepperti (Mayr, 1868). It thus offers the oldest unequivocal evidence for an ecological association between mesostigmatid mites and social insects in the order Hymenoptera.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Tick, Acari, Ant, Hymenoptera, Acarina


Abstract :  Theilerioses and babesioses are important diseases in Iranian sheep. The present study was undertaken to identify and classify/specify Theileria spp. and Babesia spp. in sheep and vector ticks. Investigation was carried out from 2009 to 2011 in the Khorasan Razavi Province, Iran. In total, 302 sheep originating from 60 different flocks were clinically examined and their blood collected. In addition, from the same flocks, ixodid ticks were sampled. Stained blood smears were microscopically examined for the presence of Theileria and Babesia organisms, and a semi-nested PCR was used for subsequent molecular specification. From the ticks, salivary glands and uterus were isolated and subsequently analyzed by semi-nested PCR. Piroplasm organisms were observed in 29% of the blood smears with low parasitemia, whereas 65% of the blood samples yielded positive PCR findings. The presence of Theileria ovis (55.6%), Theileria lestoquardi, and mixed infection with Theileria spp. and Babesia ovis were detected by semi-nested PCR in 0.3%, 5.6%, and 0.99%, respectively. In total, 429 ixodid ticks were collected from different areas of the province. The most prevalent ticks were Rhipicephalus turanicus (n = 376; 87.6% of the total), followed by Hyalomma marginatum turanicum (n = 30; 7.0%), Dermacentor raskemensis (n = 12; 2.8%), Hyalomma anatolicum anatolicum (n = 7; 1.6%), Dermacentor marginatus (n = 2; 0.5%), Rhipicephalus bursa (n = 1; 0.2%), and Haemaphysalis sp. (n = 1; 0.2%). Of the positive R. turanicus samples, 5 (5.7%) were infected with T. ovis and 2 (2.9%) with T. lestoquardi. Neither Babesia ovis nor Babesia motasi infection was detected in salivary glands or uterine samples of the ticks. The results also suggest that R. turanicus could be the vector responsible for transmission of the 2 Theileria species.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Tick, Ixodidae, Acari, Babesiosis, Glands, Theileria, Piroplasmida