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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2001 Spring;1(1):45-53.

Infection and transovarial transmission of rickettsiae in Dermacentor variabilis ticks acquired by artificial feeding.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


In this study we examined the efficiency of an in vitro feeding technique using glass microcapillaries as a method of establishing rickettsiae-infected lines of ticks. To quantify the volume ingested by ticks during microcapillary feeding, the incorporation of radiolabeled amino acids in tick gut and hemolymph was calculated. Fifteen of 18 ticks consumed between 0.06 and 6.77 microl. However, ingestion of fluid was not correlated to weight gain during capillary feeding. Uninfected and partially fed laboratory-reared female Dermacentor variabilis ticks were exposed to either Rickettsia montana- or Rickettsia rhipicephali-infected Vero cells via microcapillary tubes, returned to rabbit hosts, and allowed to feed to repletion. All tissues collected from ticks allowed to feed overnight on rickettsiae-infected fluids were found to be infected when examined by IFA. When rickettsiae-infected and uninfected capillary-fed ticks were allowed to feed to repletion and lay eggs, no significant differences in mean engorgement weight or fecundity was observed. When we assessed the efficiency of transovarial transmission of rickettsiae by ticks that imbibed rickettsiae-infected cells by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and IFA, infection was detected by PCR in the eggs from 85% of the ticks exposed to R. montana and 69% of the ticks exposed to R. rhipicephali. Rickettsial genes were not amplified in samples of the uninfected controls. Examination by IFA of egg samples from females exposed to rickettsiae-infected cells identified rickettsiae in 100% of the samples tested, while the uninfected controls were negative.

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