Amblyomma americanum is the most commonly encountered tick species in southeastern Virginia, representing approximately 95% of the human-biting tick population in this area. Here we investigated the prevalence of Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii in questing Amblyomma americanum and Dermacentor variabilis ticks collected from multiple sites in southeastern Virginia from 2010 to 2011. Although both Ehrlichia species were detected in Amblyomma americanum, no evidence of either pathogen was found in Dermacentor variabilis. Prevalence of E. chaffeensis varied by location, ranging from 0 to 5.08% among Amblyomma americanum populations. Ehrlichia ewingii prevalence was slightly higher, ranging from 0 to 8.20% among A. americanum populations. We conclude that both pathogens are established in southeastern Virginia A. americanum populations, and that although there are no apparent temporal trends in Ehrlichia prevalence, there is variation among locations, suggesting the potential for disease hotspots.
The incidence of tick-borne rickettsial disease in the southeastern United States has been rising steadily through the past decade, and the range expansions of tick species and tick-borne infectious agents, new and old, has resulted in an unprecedented mix of vectors and pathogens. The results of an ongoing 4-year surveillance project describe the relative abundance of questing tick populations in southeastern Virginia. Since 2009, more than 66,000 questing ticks of 7 species have been collected from vegetation in a variety of habitats, with Amblyomma americanum constituting over 95% of ticks collected. Other species represented included Ixodes scapularis, Dermacentor variabilis, Amblyomma maculatum, Ixodes affinis, Haemaphysalis leporispalustris, and Ixodes brunneus. We found that 26.9-54.9% of A. americanum ticks tested were positive for Rickettsia amblyommii, a non-pathogenic symbiont of this tick species. We also found no evidence of R. rickettsii in D. variabilis ticks, although they did show low infection rates of R. montanensis (1.5-2.0%). Rickettsia parkeri and Candidatus R. andeanae were found in 41.8-55.7% and 0-1.5% A. maculatum ticks, respectively. The rate of R. parkeri in A. maculatum ticks is among the highest in the literature and has increased in the 2 years since R. parkeri and A. maculatum were first reported in southeastern Virginia. We conclude that tick populations in southeastern Virginia have recently undergone dramatic changes in species and abundance and that these populations support a variety of rickettsial agents with the potential for increased risk to human health.
There is concern that ships ballasting operations may disseminate Vibrio cholerae to ports throughout the world. Given evidence that the bacterium is indeed transported by ships, we isolated pandemic serotypes O1 and O139 from ballast tanks and characterized them with respect to antibiotic resistance and virulence genes ctxA and tcpA. We carried out concurrent studies with V. cholerae isolated from coastal waters. Of 284 isolates, 30 were serotype O1 and 59 were serotype O139. These serotypes were overrepresented in ballast tanks relative to the coastal waters sampled. All locations, whether coastal waters or ballast tanks, yielded samples from which serotype O1, O139, or both were isolated. There were three groups among the 62 isolates for which antibiotic characterization was conclusive: those exhibiting ?-lactamase activity and resistance to at least one of the 12 antibiotics tested; those negative for ?-lactamase but having antibiotic resistance; those negative for ?-lactamase and registering no antibiotic resistance. When present, antibiotic resistance in nearly all cases was to ampicillin; resistance to multiple antibiotics was uncommon. PCR assays revealed that none of the isolates contained the ctxA gene and only two isolates, one O139 and one O1, contained the tcpA gene; both isolates originated from ballast water. These results support the bacteriological regulations proposed by the International Maritime Association for discharged ballast water.
Ixodes affinis Neumann (1899) and Ixodes scapularis Say (1821) are tick vectors of the etiologic agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. Ixodes affinis and I. scapularis are morphologically very similar, and as they are sympatric in the mid- and south-Atlantic U.S. coastal states, their accurate identification is crucial to studies of disease and vector ecology in this area. This work describes a rapid, single-tube SYBR(®) Green-based real-time PCR assay for differentiation of I. affinis and I. scapularis at all life stages. The assay employs 2 pairs of species-specific primers directed against the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) region of the nuclear rRNA operon. Amplification products for these primer pairs differ in size and may be differentiated with a melt curve analysis. This tool is intended as a supplement to morphological methods for accurate identification of these ticks.
Candidatus Rickettsia andeanae was identified during an investigation of a febrile outbreak in northwestern Peru (2002). DNA sequencing from two ticks (Amblyomma maculatum, Ixodes boliviensis) collected during the investigation revealed a novel Rickettsia agent with similarity to the spotted fever group rickettsiae. Since then, Candidatus R. andeanae has been detected in A. maculatum ticks collected in the southeastern and southcentral United States, Argentina, and Peru. To date, Candidatus R. andeanae has not been successfully cultivated in the laboratory. We present evidence for the continuous cultivation in three cell lines of Candidatus R. andeanae isolated from an A. maculatum tick (Portsmouth, Virginia).
We report evidence that Amblyomma maculatum tick populations are well established in southeastern Virginia. We found that 43.1% of the adult Gulf Coast ticks collected in the summer of 2010 carried Rickettsia parkeri, suggesting that persons living in or visiting southeastern Virginia are at risk for infection with this pathogen.
Group A streptococci produce a variety of extracellular proteins, many of which are considered to be virulence factors. One of these is hyaluronate lyase (HylA), an enzyme capable of degrading the extracellular matrix of the host as well as the bacterial capsule. The current study examined three genotypes of hylA (full, truncated and deleted). Only isolates containing a full-length gene produced an enzymatically active hyaluronate lyase; however, truncation of the protein was not the reason for loss of activity. A single nucleotide substitution, resulting in an amino acid change at position 199 of the lyase was present in a highly-conserved region of the protein in isolates not producing active enzyme. In serotypes 4 and 22, those producing active enzymes, this residue was an aspartic acid, in serotypes not showing hyaluronate lyase activity, it was a valine. Site-directed mutagenesis indicated the loss of enzymatic activity of the hyaluronate lyase is in part determined by the mutation resulting in an amino acid residue change. This mutation results in an inactive form of the enzyme and is found in the more virulent serotypes of Streptococcus pyogenes, suggesting that hyaluronate lyase could interfere with the disease process, in essence being an anti-virulence factor.
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