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Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases








Dermacentor variabilis, a common human-biting tick found throughout the eastern half and along the west coast of the United States, is a vector of multiple bacterial pathogens. Historically, D. variabilis has been considered a primary vector of Rickettsia rickettsii, the causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A total of 883 adult D. variabilis, collected between 2012 and 2017 from various locations in 12 states across the United States, were screened for rickettsial DNA. Tick extracts were evaluated using three real-time PCR assays; an R. rickettsii-specific assay, a Rickettsia bellii-specific assay, and a Rickettsia genus-specific assay. Sequencing of ompA gene amplicons generated using a seminested PCR assay was used to determine the rickettsial species present in positive samples not already identified by species-specific real-time assays. A total of 87 (9.9%) tick extracts contained R. bellii DNA and 203 (23%) contained DNA of other rickettsial species, including 47 (5.3%) with Rickettsia montanensis, 11 (1.2%) with Rickettsia amblyommatis, 2 (0.2%) with Rickettsia rhipicephali, and 3 (0.3%) with Rickettsia parkeri. Only 1 (0.1%) tick extract contained DNA of R. rickettsii. These data support multiple other contemporary studies that indicate infrequent detection of R. rickettsii in D. variabilis in North America.


© 2019, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

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Original Publication Citation

Hecht, J. A., Allerdice, M. E. J., Dykstra, L. M., Eisen, R. J., Johnson, T. L., Gaff, H. D., Varela-Stokes, A. S., Goddard, J., Pagac, B. B., Paddock, C. D., & Karpathy, S. E. (2019). Multistate survey of American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) for Rickettsia species. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 19(9), 652-657.


0000-0002-4034-2684 (Gaff)