Seasonal Influence on the Prevalence of Ehrlichia chaffeensis in Amblyomma americanum Adults

As the years have passed, tick-borne illnesses have posed a growing threat to human health. Many studies have looked into the increasing prevalence of the agent causing Lyme disease in blacklegged ticks, but few have looked into the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) and its related risks including the bacterial pathogen Ehrlichia chaffeensis. (Goddard et al. 2009). In order to understand the extent to which E. chaffeensis threatens human health, its prevalence and distribution must be studied. Previous research done in the Applied Conservation and Ecological Research (ACER) lab has described E. chaffeensis  prevalence on the nymph population of A. americanum and how weather changes might be related to pathogen prevalence. I am conducting parallel research this summer to investigate E. chaffeensis prevalence in the adult tick population and how its prevalence is affected by weather patterns and related environmental factors. In addition to my upcoming sampling effort this summer, I am compiling ticks collected in past years from 130 plots in the Virginia Middle Peninsula and will use these five years’ data to conduct DNA and data analyses to determine any correlations between pathogen prevalence and weather patterns.