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J Med Entomol. 2012 May;49(3):783-6.

Detection of a novel spotted fever group Rickettsia in the gophertortoise tick.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch, Atlanta GA 30029, USA.


The gophertortoise tick, Amblyomma tuberculatum (Marx), is distributed throughout the southeastern United States, and its immature life stages have been reported to occasionally bite humans. Here we report detection of a novel spotted fever group (SFG) Rickettsia in A. tuberculatum ticks collected in the southern United States. Among questing ticks collected in Georgia, 10 pools of larvae were identified as gophertortoise ticks, A. tuberculatum. Each of these samples was positive for SFG Rickettsiae. The restriction fragment-length polymorphism profiles were identical to each other, but distinct from those of other rickettsiae previously found in Amblyomma spp. ticks. Partial genetic characterization of the novel agent was achieved by sequencing the 17 kDa, gltA, ompB, ompA, rpoB, and sca4 genes. Analysis of a concatenated tree of four genes (gltA, ompB, ompA, and sca4) demonstrates close relatedness of the detected Rickettsia to several SFG Rickettsia spp. The identical rickettsial DNA was detected in 50 and 70% of adult A. tuberculatum ticks from Mississippi and Florida, respectively. The results indicate wide distribution of a novel Rickettsia, capability for transovarial transmission, and high prevalence in tested tick populations.

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