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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1999 Feb;65(2):773-8.

Lethal effect of Rickettsia rickettsii on its tick vector (Dermacentor andersoni).

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  • 1Laboratory of Microbial Structure and Function, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana 59840, USA.


Rickettsia rickettsii, the causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, was lethal for the majority of experimentally and transovarially infected Rocky Mountain wood ticks (Dermacentor andersoni). Overall, 94.1% of nymphs infected as larvae by feeding on rickettsemic guinea pigs died during the molt into adults and 88. 3% of adult female ticks infected as nymphs died prior to feeding. In contrast, only 2.8% of uninfected larvae failed to develop into adults over two generations. Infected female ticks incubated at 4 degreesC had a lower mortality (80.9%) than did those held at 21 degreesC (96.8%). Rickettsiae were vertically transmitted to 39.0% of offspring, and significantly fewer larvae developed from infected ticks. The lethal effect of R. rickettsii may explain the low prevalence of infected ticks in nature and affect its enzootic maintenance.

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