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J Med Entomol. 2005 Mar;42(2):153-62.

Variation among geographically separated populations of Dermacentor andersoni (Acari: Ixodidae) in midgut susceptibility to Anaplasma marginale (Rickettsiales: Anaplasmataceae).

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USDA-ARS, Animal Disease Research Unit, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA.


Anaplasma marginale is a tick-borne rickettsial pathogen of cattle that is endemic throughout large areas of the United States. Cattle that survive acute infection become life-long persistently infected carriers. In the intermountain west the Rocky Mountain wood tick, Dermacentor andersoni Stiles, is the most common vector of A. marginale. Male D. andersoni acquire A. marginale when feeding on persistently infected cattle and biologically transmit it when they transfer from infected to susceptible hosts. Host-seeking adult D. andersoni were collected from four widely separated natural populations and tested for susceptibility to midgut colonization with A. marginale. Male ticks were fed on calves persistently infected with a strain of A. marginale naturally transmitted by D. andersoni. Gut infection rates ranged from 12.5% of ticks collected from a mountain site near Hamilton, MT, to 62.5% of ticks from a rangeland site near Riley, OR. Sites near Miles City, MT, and Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, had intermediate levels of susceptibility. The infection rates differed significantly among populations, and the same populations sampled in two consecutive years were not significantly different from one year to the next. Although there was variation among the populations in the size of ticks, size was unrelated to acquisition of gut infection. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) demonstrated that there was no significant difference between populations in the mean number of genome copies in the guts of infected ticks. A. marginale from infected ticks was genotyped to confirm that they were all infected with the laboratory strain, and a sample of 682 field-collected D. andersoni was surveyed for A. marginale by nested PCR; none were found to be naturally infected. Infection of the gut is an essential constituent of vector competence for A. marginale; in this study, we have demonstrated significant variation among populations in this key component of vector competence.

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