Effects of Rickettsia amblyommatis Infection on the Vector Competence of Amblyomma americanum Ticks for Rickettsia rickettsia
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Effects of Rickettsia amblyommatis Infection on the Vector Competence of Amblyomma americanum Ticks for Rickettsia rickettsia

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    • Alternative Title:
      Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis
    • Description:
      Although Dermacentor spp. ticks are considered the primary vectors of Rickettsia rickettsii in the United States, other North American tick species are also capable of transmitting the agent, including the lone star tick-Amblyomma americanum. The lone star tick is an aggressive human-biting tick abundant in the South, Central, and Mid-Atlantic United States, which has been shown to be a competent vector of R. rickettsii in laboratory studies. However in nature, A. americanum frequently carry Rickettsia amblyommatis-another member of the spotted fever group-with the prevalence of infection reaching 84% in some populations. It has been postulated that the presence of an endosymbiotic Rickettsia in a significant proportion of a vector population would diminish or even block transmission of pathogenic Rickettsia in ticks from generation to generation due to transovarial interference. We measured the ability of R. amblyommatis-infected A. americanum to acquire R. rickettsii from an infected host with a bloodmeal, and transmit it transstadially, horizontally (to a susceptible host), and vertically to the next generation. Larvae from both the R. amblyommatis-infected and R. amblyommatis-free cohorts acquired R. rickettsii from infected guinea pigs, but the presence of the symbiont diminished the ability of coinfected engorged larvae to transmit R. rickettsii transstadially. Conversely, acquisition of R. rickettsii by cofeeding was unaffected in R. amblyommatis-infected nymphs and adults; prevalence of R. rickettsii in engorged adults reached 97% in both R. amblyommatis-infected and R. amblyommatis-free cohorts. In guinea pigs exposed to dually infected nymphs, R. rickettsii infection was milder than in those fed upon nymphs infected with R. rickettsii only. The frequency of transovarial transmission of R. rickettsii in the R. amblyommatis-infected cohort (31%) appeared lower than that in the R. amblyommatis-free cohort (48%), but the difference was not statistically significant. Larval progenies of dually infected A. americanum females transmitted R. rickettsii to naïve guinea pigs confirming viability of the pathogen. Thus, the vector competence of A. americanum for R. rickettsii was not significantly affected by R. amblyommatis.
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