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Prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia miyamotoi in Ixodes scapularis Ticks in Southwest Pennsylvania

Schenk, Kelly Elizabeth (2023) Prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia miyamotoi in Ixodes scapularis Ticks in Southwest Pennsylvania. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Tick-borne illnesses are increasing across the United States (US), especially in northeastern states like Pennsylvania (PA). Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most prevalent and well-known tick-borne illness presently. A common vector of tick-borne pathogens in the US is Ixodes scapularis, known as the black-legged (deer) tick. Ixodes scapularis can spread multiple tick-borne pathogens simultaneously, including Borrelia miyamotoi (the causative agent of tick-borne relapsing fever). Despite the importance of knowing the prevalence of Borrelia species in nymphal ticks to gauge public health risk of tick-borne illness, the baseline prevalence of tick-borne pathogens in southwest Pennsylvania’s I. scapularis population is not well documented. This study addressed this gap in the literature by providing comprehensive B. burgdorferi and B. miyamotoi prevalence data from I. scapularis nymphs collected across southwest Pennsylvania over two consecutive years. Overall, 28.8% of all nymphal I. scapularis tested positive for B. burgdorferi and 0.7% tested positive for B. miyamotoi. Co-infection with B. burgdorferi and B. miyamotoi only occurred in 0.1% of ticks sampled (n=2). Across suburban, urban, and rural sites, the prevalence of B. burgdorferi differed (F (2, 3) = 27.65, p = 0.01), and was higher in rural and urban sites compared to suburban sites. While the prevalence of B. burgdorferi, B. miyamotoi, and Borrelia co-infection increased between 2021 and 2022, this change was not significant. This change was the most pronounced in suburban and rural areas, with a higher abundance of herbaceous plant life and shrubs. Furthermore, this data provides insight into the richness and abundance of B. burgdorferi and B. miyamotoi throughout southwestern PA and contributes to ongoing surveillance efforts that inform public health outreach and physician education that are regionally appropriate and specific.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Schenk, Kelly Elizabethkes185@pitt.edukes1850009-0000-4986-1862
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorTufts, Danielle Mdmt80@pitt.edudmt80
Committee MemberMattila, Joshuajmattila@pitt.edujmattila
Committee MemberHenning, Jillhenning@pitt.eduhenning
Date: 15 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 18 April 2023
Approval Date: 15 May 2023
Submission Date: 26 April 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 64
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Infectious Diseases and Microbiology
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Lyme disease, hard tick relapsing fever, suburban, rural, urban
Date Deposited: 15 May 2023 22:41
Last Modified: 15 May 2023 22:41


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