Vector Tick Transmission Model of Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis

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Biological Sciences


Many aspects of rickettsial infections have been characterized, including pathogenic and immune pathways and mechanisms of rickettsial survival within the vertebrate host and tick vector. However, very few studies are focused on the complex pathogen–vector–host interactions during tick feeding. Therefore, our objective was to develop a tick transmission model of the spotted fever group of rickettsial infections to study the initial events in disease development. The most appropriate strain of mouse was identified for evaluation as a transmission model, and the course of infection, bacterial levels, histopathologic changes, and antibody response during tick transmission in mice infested with Amblyomma maculatum ticks carrying the emerging pathogen, Rickettia parkeri, were studied. Results showed distinct clinical signs in C3H/HeN mice infected intravenously, leading to selection of this mouse strain for tick transmission studies. Active infection of animals was observed after tick vector transmission. The bacteria disseminated systemically and spread to several organs at 24 hours after tick attachment, with peak bacterial load at day 6 after tick attachment. Skin, lung, and liver showed the greatest pathologic changes, with inflammatory cellular infiltration and necrosis. These findings indicate the feasibility of using murine infection with R. parkeri by A. maculatum tick transmission as a model to study different aspects of the spotted fever group of rickettsial disease establishment.

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The American Journal of Pathology