Spatial Heterogeneity of Sympatric Tick Species and Tick-Borne Pathogens Emphasizes the Need for Surveillance for Effective Tick Control

Erika T. Machtinger, Robyn M. Nadolny, Bryan T. Vinyard, Lars Eisen, Andrias Hojgaard, Scott A. Haynes, Loretta Bowman, Cory Casal, Andrew Y. Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three tick species that can transmit pathogen causing disease are commonly found parasitizing people and animals in the mid-Atlantic United States: the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis Say), the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis [Say]), and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum [L.]) (Acari: Ixodidae). The potential risk of pathogen transmission from tick bites acquired at schools in tick-endemic areas is a concern, as school-aged children are a high-risk group for tick-borne disease. Integrated pest management (IPM) is often required in school districts, and continued tick range expansion and population growth will likely necessitate IPM strategies to manage ticks on school grounds. However, an often-overlooked step of tick management is monitoring and assessment of local tick species assemblages to inform the selection of control methodologies. The purpose of this study was to evaluate tick species presence, abundance, and distribution and the prevalence of tick-borne pathogens in both questing ticks and those removed from rodent hosts on six school properties in Maryland. Overall, there was extensive heterogeneity in tick species dominance, abundance, and evenness across the field sites. A. americanum and I. scapularis were found on all sites in all years. Overall, A. americanum was the dominant tick species. D. variabilis was collected in limited numbers. Several pathogens were found in both questing ticks and those removed from rodent hosts, although prevalence of infection was not consistent between years. Borrelia burgdorferi, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii, and Ehrlichia "Panola Mountain"were identified in questing ticks, and B. burgdorferi and Borrelia miyamotoi were detected in trapped Peromyscus spp. mice. B. burgdorferi was the dominant pathogen detected. The impact of tick diversity on IPM of ticks is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)843-853
Number of pages11
JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases

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