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Host abundance and distribution of two tickborne pathogens, Babesia microti and Borrelia burgdorferi in Southwestern Pennsylvania small mammals

Bache, Emily Grace (2024) Host abundance and distribution of two tickborne pathogens, Babesia microti and Borrelia burgdorferi in Southwestern Pennsylvania small mammals. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the United States, tick-borne diseases are the most common vector-borne disease. Pennsylvania is consistently one of the top states for annual number of Lyme disease cases, caused by an infection with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Human babesiosis, caused by Babesia microti, is endemic in the northeastern United States, but is not a reportable condition in Pennsylvania. These pathogens are transmitted to humans through the Ixodes scapularis tick vector, which is found throughout every county in Pennsylvania. Tick-borne pathogens like B. burgdorferi and B. microti are maintained in an enzootic cycle between the I. scapularis tick and a rodent reservoir host. Peromyscus leucopus, the white-footed mouse, is considered the most competent mammalian host for both B. burgdorferi and B. microti. This study examines the host species and pathogen prevalence among small mammal hosts in southwestern Pennsylvania over a three-year collection period between 2021, 2022, and 2023. The most abundant species collected included white-footed mice, Eastern chipmunks, and shrews, which were found to be infected with both B. burgdorferi and B. microti at similar prevalence. Collection sites were also analyzed based on community type and the prevalence of B. burgdorferi was similar in urban and rural sites but was lower in suburban areas compared to rural. The prevalence of B. microti did not differ between urban, suburban, and rural sites, indicating a similar human risk among community types. This study is the first to describe the establishment of B. microti among small mammal hosts in southwestern Pennsylvania. The findings presented here suggest that ongoing surveillance is necessary.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Bache, Emily Graceegb46@pitt.eduegb46
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorTufts, Danielle Mdmt80@pitt.edudmt80
Committee MemberMattila, Joshua Tjmattila@pitt.edujmattila
Committee MemberLarson, Erica Cerl72@pitt.eduerl72
Date: 14 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 15 April 2024
Approval Date: 14 May 2024
Submission Date: 25 April 2024
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 72
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Infectious Diseases and Microbiology
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Tick-borne diseases, Lyme Disease, Babesiosis, Small Mammals
Date Deposited: 14 May 2024 19:05
Last Modified: 14 May 2024 19:05


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