Human-Biting Ixodes Ticks and Pathogen Prevalence from California, Oregon, and Washington

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From July 2006 through August 2017, a passive surveillance study of Ixodes ticks submitted from California, Oregon, and Washington was conducted by the TickReport program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In total, 549 human-biting Ixodes ticks were submitted comprising both endemic and nonendemic species. We found that 430 endemic ticks were from 3 Ixodes species: Ixodes pacificus, Ixodes spinipalpis, and Ixodes angustus, whereas Ixodes scapularis (n = 111) was the most common species among the 119 nonendemic ticks. The submission peak for nymphal I. pacificus and I. spinipalpis was June, while submission peak for adult I. pacificus and nymphal I. angustus was April and September, respectively.

Endemic ticks commonly attached to the lower extremities of their victims, and individuals younger than 9 years old were frequently bitten. The infection prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Borrelia miyamotoi, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in I. pacificus ticks was 1.31%, 1.05%, and 0.52%, respectively, and the prevalence of B. burgdorferi s. l. and A. phagocytophilum in I. spinipalpis ticks was 14.29% and 10.71%, respectively.

Furthermore, two species within the B. burgdorferi s. l. complex were detected in West Coast ticks: B. burgdorferi sensu stricto and Borrelia lanei. I. spinipalpis had the highest Borrelia prevalence among endemic ticks, and it was caused exclusively by B. lanei. Borrelia mayonii, Babesia microti, and Ehrlichia muris-like agent were not detected in these endemic ticks. In this study, we show that many nonendemic Ixodes ticks (119/549) are most likely acquired from travel to a different geographic region.

We report cases of conventionally recognized nonhuman feeders (I. spinipalpis and I. angustus) parasitizing humans.

The highest pathogen prevalence in I. spinipalpis may indicate a larger public health threat than previously thought, and the enzootic life cycle and pathogenicity of B. lanei warrant further study.



OOPS!  “We report cases of conventionally recognized nonhuman feeders (I. spinipalpis and I. angustus) parasitizing humans.”

Now just how did that happen?

As we have feared all along, the barrel full of monkeys keeps rolling out of Pandora’s box.  There are far more players in the game than is being let on.  

Stay tuned.  It’s going to get uglier and uglier.