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Assessing Borrelia burgdorferi in small mammal communities in Western Pennsylvania

Kahambwe, Josée (2023) Assessing Borrelia burgdorferi in small mammal communities in Western Pennsylvania. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Tick-borne disease cases are on the rise in the USA. In Pennsylvania, multiple tick-borne pathogens such as Borrelia burgdorferi, Babesia microti, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum cause disease in humans. These pathogens are transmitted to humans and other animals through tick vectors like Ixodes scapularis Say, one of the most common infectious agents in the state and country. Like multiple tick species, I. scapularis are hematophagous and feed on birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, including humans. Therefore, they can infect and become infected with pathogens during their blood meals. During a blood meal, pathogens can be transmitted to a competent host that can maintain the pathogens. The competent hosts can be rodents and other small mammals found abundantly in Pennsylvania's wildlife. For example, Peromyscus leucopus, the white-footed mouse, is considered a reservoir host for multiple tick-borne pathogens like B. burgdorferi, B. microti, and A. phagocytophilum. The potential infection risk to humans is assessed by looking at the prevalence of the nymphal ticks and the prevalence of the pathogen in the hosts. This study surveys the hosts and the presence of infection in the small mammals of Western Pennsylvania for a period of two years. Small mammals were identified, and samples were collected at six different parks of the region during the summer of 2021 and 2022. A total of 208 and 282 individual small mammals belonging to a wide range of species were collected in 2021 and 2022, respectively. White-footed mice, eastern chipmunks, and shrews were the most abundantly collected species. The density and diversity of these populations impacted the prevalence of Borrelia infection at different sites. The study also showed that the prevalence of B. burgdorferi at urban sites became more comparable to the prevalence at rural sites during the two years studied.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Kahambwe, Joséejkk39@pit.eduJkk39
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorTufts, Danielledmt80@pitt.edudmt80
Committee MemberMarques, Ernestomarques@pitt.edumarques
Committee MemberCahoon, Latylatycahoon@pitt.edulatycahoon
Date: 28 April 2023
Defense Date: 12 April 2023
Approval Date: 15 May 2023
Submission Date: 28 April 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 67
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: Tick-borne disease, Tick-borne pathogens, small mammals, Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania, Borrelia burgdorferi, vector-borne disease.
Date Deposited: 15 May 2023 21:47
Last Modified: 15 May 2023 21:47


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