Ticks and disease: the consequence of a shifting ecological landscape
Fall 2021 Graduate Student Award in Pathogenic and Commensal Organisms
Ticks are among a leading cause of infectious disease in the United States. However, tick-borne disease is not consistent, and there have been changes in abundance to both Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichioses. As these diseases are transmitted by different tick species, the epidemiology may be driven by tick species abundance. Specifically, I hypothesize that the American dog tick has been replaced by the lone star tick in many parts of the United States. To test this, I will resurvey sites with published tick data from the last 50 years. I will also test these ticks for RMSF and Ehrlichiosis pathogens to see if there is a similar trend in the bacterial pathogen abundance in the ticks. I predict that one explanation for the decrease in RMSF cases is due to a corresponding decrease in the American dog ticks that transmit it, and that this decrease is due to a replacement of this tick with the lone star tick that transmits ehrlichiosis.