Rickettsia and Relapsing Fever Borrelia in Ticks from Bats in Northeast US

Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases (Occi, J., et al.) 5.23,image of bat crawling on a tree published “Rickettsia and relapsing fever Borrelia in Alectorobius kelleyi (Ixodida: Argasidae) from peri domestic bats in the northeastern United States.” The goal of the study was to evaluate the incidence of Rickettsia and Borrelia pathogens in the parasitizing synanthropic bat species in the highly urbanized northeastern region of the United States.

The research team collaborated with parasitologists, bat scientists and wildlife rehabilitators to obtain A. kelleyi from five states. A thorough analysis of bats found to be infected with a spotted fever group Rickettsia (SFGR) showed concurrent infection with a R. belli-like taxon (ancestral group) as well as an SFGR pathogen closely related to R. peacockii. Thirty-six percent of the A. kelleyi tested were positive for SFGR. The researchers also identified a relapsing fever spirochete, likely Candidatus Borrelia johnsonii, in a quarter of the A. kelleyi that came from Pennsylvania.

The researchers illustrate that it is uncertain whether these pathogens are a health risk to either bats or humans. The study shows that human exposure to ectoparasites infesting peridomestic wildlife should be contemplated in the epidemiology of tick-borne diseases.

LDA NOTE: LDA Congratulates James Occi (Jim), who recently received his PhD at Rutgers University, the Center for Vector Biology (New Brunswick), and wishes him every success with his future endeavors.  He studied tick-borne diseases in New Jersey tick populations under the direction of Dr. Dina Fonseca and co-authored the above article and four other research articles for his dissertation. Link to others below.

For more information:

Read the study in Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases.

Read 4 more journal articles: Dr. Occi, LDA Medical/Professional Advisory Board Member.