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Concept: Tick


BACKGROUND: Although tick-borne diseases are important causes of morbidity and mortality in dogs in tropical areas, there is little information on the agents causing these infections in the Caribbean. METHODOLOGY: We used PCRs to test blood from a cross-section of dogs on St Kitts for Ehrlichia (E.) canis, Babesia (B.) spp., Anaplasma (A.) spp. and Hepatozoon (H.) spp. Antibodies against E. canis and A. phagocytophilum/platys were detected using commercial immunochromatography tests. Records of the dogs were examined retrospectively to obtain clinical and laboratory data. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: There was serological and/or PCR evidence of infections of dogs with E. canis (27%; 46/170), Babesia spp. (24%; 90/372) including B. canis vogeli (12%; 43/372) and B. gibsoni (10%; 36/372), A. platys (11%; 17/157) and H. canis (6%; 15/266). We could not identify the Babesia sp. detected in nine dogs. There was evidence of multiple infections with dual infections with E. canis and B. canis vogeli (8%; 14/179) or B. gibsoni (7%; 11/170) being the most common. There was agreement between immunochromatography and PCR test results for E. canis for 87% of dogs. Only 13% of exposed dogs had signs of a tick-borne disease and 38% had laboratory abnormalities. All 10 dogs presenting for a recheck after treatment of E. canis with doxycycline were apparently healthy although all remained seropositive and six still had laboratory abnormalities despite an average of two treatments with the most recent being around 12 months previously. Infections with Babesia spp. were also mainly subclinical with only 6% (4/67) showing clinical signs and 13% (9/67) having laboratory abnormalities. Similarly, animals with evidence of infections with A. platys and H. canis were largely apparently healthy with only occasional laboratory abnormalities. CONCLUSIONS: Dogs are commonly infected with tick-borne pathogens in the Caribbean with most having no clinical signs or laboratory abnormalities.

Concepts: Apicomplexa, Lyme disease, Tick, Caribbean, Ehrlichiosis, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Kitts, Anguilla


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


Powassan virus (POWV) is an emerging tick-borne arbovirus presenting a public health threat in North America. POWV lineage II, also known as deer tick virus, is the strain of the virus most frequently found in Ixodes scapularis ticks and is implicated in most cases of POWV encephalitis in the United States. Currently, no commercial tests are available to detect POWV exposure in tick-borne disease (TBD) patients. We describe here the development and analytical validation of a serologic test panel to detect POWV infections. The panel uses an indirect enzyme immunoassay (EIA) to screen. EIA-positive samples reflex to a laboratory-developed, POWV-specific immunofluorescence assay (IFA). The analytical sensitivity of the test panel was 89%, and the limit of detection was a plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT) titer of 1:20. The analytical specificity was 100% for the IgM assay and 65% for the IgG assay when heterologous-flavivirus-positive samples were tested. On samples collected from regions where Lyme disease is endemic, seroprevalence for POWV in TBD samples was 9.4% (10 of 106) versus 2% when tested with non-TBD samples (2 of 100, P = 0.034). No evidence of POWV infection was seen in samples collected from a region where Lyme disease was not endemic (0 of 22). This test panel provides a sensitive and specific platform for detecting a serologic response to POWV early in the course of infection when neutralizing antibodies may not be detectable. Combined with clinical history, the panel is an effective tool for identifying acute POWV infection. IMPORTANCE Approximately 100 cases of POWV disease were reported in the United States over the past 10 years. Most cases have occurred in the Northeast (52) and Great Lakes (45) regions ( The prevalence of POWV in ticks and mammals is increasing, and POWV poses an increasing threat in a greater geographical range. In areas of the Northeast and Midwest where Lyme disease is endemic, POWV testing is recommended for patients with a recent tick bite, patients with Lyme disease who have been treated with antibiotics, or patients with a tick exposure who have tested negative for Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses and have persistent symptoms consistent with posttreatment Lyme disease. Testing could also benefit patients with tick exposure and unexplained neurologic symptoms and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients with known tick exposure. Until now, diagnostic testing for Powassan virus has not been commercially available and has been limited to patients presenting with severe, neurologic complications. The lack of routine testing for Powassan virus in patients with suspected tick-borne disease means that little information is available regarding the overall prevalence of the virus and the full spectrum of clinical symptoms associated with infection. As Ixodes scapularis is the tick vector for Powassan virus and multiple other tick-borne pathogens, including the Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, the clinical presentations and long-term outcomes of Powassan virus infection and concurrent infection with other tick-borne disease pathogens remain unknown.

Concepts: Antibody, Bacteria, Lyme disease, Tick, Ixodes scapularis, Babesiosis, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Tick-borne disease


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 efficacy and accepted regimen of antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease has been a point of significant contention among physicians and patients. While experimental studies in animals have offered evidence of post-treatment persistence of Borrelia burgdorferi, variations in methodology, detection methods and limitations of the models have led to some uncertainty with respect to translation of these results to human infection. With all stages of clinical Lyme disease having previously been described in nonhuman primates, this animal model was selected in order to most closely mimic human infection and response to treatment. Rhesus macaques were inoculated with B. burgdorferi by tick bite and a portion were treated with recommended doses of doxycycline for 28 days at four months post-inoculation. Signs of infection, clinical pathology, and antibody responses to a set of five antigens were monitored throughout the ~1.2 year study. Persistence of B. burgdorferi was evaluated using xenodiagnosis, bioassays in mice, multiple methods of molecular detection, immunostaining with polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies and an in vivo culture system. Our results demonstrate host-dependent signs of infection and variation in antibody responses. In addition, we observed evidence of persistent, intact, metabolically-active B. burgdorferi after antibiotic treatment of disseminated infection and showed that persistence may not be reflected by maintenance of specific antibody production by the host.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Lyme disease, Primate, Rhesus Macaque, Tick, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia


Recent reports suggest that host-seeking nymphs in southern populations of Ixodes scapularis remain below the leaf litter surface, while northern nymphs seek hosts on leaves and twigs above the litter surface. This behavioral difference potentially results in decreased tick contact with humans in the south, and fewer cases of Lyme disease. We studied whether north-south differences in tick survival patterns might contribute to this phenomenon. Four month old larvae resulting from a cross between Wisconsin males and South Carolina females died faster under southern than under northern conditions in the lab, as has previously been reported for ticks from both northern and southern populations. However, newly-emerged larvae from Rhode Island parents did not differ consistently in mortality under northern and southern conditions, possibly because of their younger age. Survival is lower, and so the north-south survival difference might be greater in older ticks. Larval survival was positively related to larval size (as measured by scutal area), while survival was positively related to larval fat content in some, but not all, trials. The difference in larval survival under northern vs. southern conditions might simply result from faster metabolism under warmer southern conditions leading to shorter life spans. However, ticks consistently died faster under southern than under northern conditions in the laboratory when relative humidity was low (75%), but not under moderate (85%) or high (95%) RH. Therefore, mortality due to desiccation stress is greater under southern than under northern conditions. We hypothesize that mortality resulting from the greater desiccation stress under southern conditions acts as a selective pressure resulting in the evolution of host-seeking behavior in which immatures remain below the leaf litter surface in southern I. scapularis populations, so as to avoid the desiccating conditions at the surface. If this hypothesis is correct, it has implications for the effect of climate change on the future distribution of Lyme disease.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Relative humidity, Tick, Ixodes scapularis, Babesiosis, Ixodes, Vector, Tick-borne disease


Ticks are the most common arthropod vectors of both human and animal diseases in Europe, and the Ixodes ricinus tick species is able to transmit a large number of bacteria, viruses and parasites. Ticks may also be co-infected with several pathogens, with a subsequent high likelihood of co-transmission to humans or animals. However few data exist regarding co-infection prevalences, and these studies only focus on certain well-known pathogens. In addition to pathogens, ticks also carry symbionts that may play important roles in tick biology, and could interfere with pathogen maintenance and transmission. In this study we evaluated the prevalence of 38 pathogens and four symbionts and their co-infection levels as well as possible interactions between pathogens, or between pathogens and symbionts.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Evolution, Organism, Microbiology, Lyme disease, Tick, Ixodes ricinus


Ticks are the major vectors of most disease-causing agents to humans, companion animals and wildlife. Moreover, ticks transmit a greater variety of pathogenic agents than any other blood-feeding arthropod. Ticks have been expanding their geographic ranges in recent decades largely due to climate change. Furthermore, tick populations in many areas of their past and even newly established localities have increased in abundance. These dynamic changes present new and increasing severe public health threats to humans, livestock and companion animals in areas where they were previously unknown or were considered to be of minor importance. Here in this review, the geographic status of four representative tick species are discussed in relation to these public health concerns, namely, the American dog tick,Dermacentor variabilis, the lone star tick,Amblyomma americanum, the Gulf Coast Tick,Amblyomma maculatumand the black-legged tick,Ixodes scapularis. Both biotic and abiotic factors that may influence future range expansion and successful colony formation in new habitats are discussed.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Tick, Ixodes scapularis, Arachnid, North America, Dog, Biotic component, Abiotic component


Evidence-based guidelines for the management of patients with Lyme disease were developed by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS). The guidelines address three clinical questions - the usefulness of antibiotic prophylaxis for known tick bites, the effectiveness of erythema migrans treatment and the role of antibiotic retreatment in patients with persistent manifestations of Lyme disease. Healthcare providers who evaluate and manage patients with Lyme disease are the intended users of the new ILADS guidelines, which replace those issued in 2004 (Exp Rev Anti-infect Ther 2004;2:S1-13). These clinical practice guidelines are intended to assist clinicians by presenting evidence-based treatment recommendations, which follow the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation system. ILADS guidelines are not intended to be the sole source of guidance in managing Lyme disease and they should not be viewed as a substitute for clinical judgment nor used to establish treatment protocols.

Concepts: Evaluation, Lyme disease, Tick, Ixodes scapularis, Erythema chronicum migrans, International Lyme And Associated Diseases Society


Chemokines function via G-protein coupled receptors in a robust network to recruit immune cells to sites of inflammation. Due to the complexity of this network, targeting single chemokines or receptors has not been successful in inflammatory disease. Dog tick saliva contains polyvalent CC-chemokine binding peptides termed evasins 1 and 4, that efficiently disrupt the chemokine network in models of inflammatory disease. Here we develop yeast surface display as a tool for functionally identifying evasins, and use it to identify 10 novel polyvalent CC-chemokine binding evasin-like peptides from salivary transcriptomes of eight tick species in Rhipicephalus and Amblyomma genera. These evasins have unique binding profiles compared to evasins 1 and 4, targeting CCL2 and CCL13 in addition to other CC-chemokines. Evasin binding leads to neutralisation of chemokine function including that of complex chemokine mixtures, suggesting therapeutic efficacy in inflammatory disease. We propose that yeast surface display is a powerful approach to mine potential therapeutics from inter-species protein interactions that have arisen during evolution of parasitism in ticks.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Protein, Signal transduction, Chemokine, G protein-coupled receptor, Tick, Ixodidae