Identification of Rickettsia spp. and Babesia conradae in Dermacentor spp. Collected from Dogs and Cats Across the United States. Academic Article uri icon


  • In the United States, Dermacentor variabilis and Dermacentor andersoni are considered key vectors for Rickettsia rickettsii, the causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Through regional surveillance, a wide diversity of Rickettsia spp. have been documented in D. variabilis, and Dermacentor spp. has been suggested as potential vectors for various other pathogens, including Babesia spp. and Ehrlichia canis. To better define the prevalence and diversity of pathogens in Dermacentor spp. across the United States, 848 ticks collected from dogs and cats in 44/50 states in 2018-2019 were tested by PCR for Rickettsia spp.-specific 17kDa and ompA gene fragments; a subset of Dermacentor spp. was also tested with PCR, targeting fragments of the 18S and large subunit region rRNA genes of Babesia spp. and 16S rRNA genes of E. canis. Rickettsia spp. was identified in 12.5% (106/848) of ticks. Species detected include Rickettsia montanensis (n=64 ticks), Rickettsia bellii (n=15 ticks), Rickettsia rhipicephali (n=13 ticks), Rickettsia peacockii (n=8 ticks), Rickettsia amblyommatis (n=3 ticks), Rickettsia cooleyi (n=1 tick), and unclassified Rickettsia spp. (n=2 ticks). Ticks with R. montanensis and R. bellii were submitted from every U.S. region; R. rhipicephali was predominantly detected in ticks from the southern half of the United States, and all R. peacockii-positive ticks were D. andersoni that originated from the Rocky Mountain states. Ehrlichia canis was not detected in any Dermacentor spp., and Babesia conradae was detected in two Dermacentor albipictus. Because most ticks had fed on dogs or cats before submission, these findings do not implicate a given Dermacentor sp. as a primary vector of these agents, but in regard to Rickettsia spp., the data do support other published work showing D. variabilis harbors a diversity of Rickettsia species with unknown implications for animal and human health.

published proceedings

  • Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis

altmetric score

  • 3.35

author list (cited authors)

  • Duncan, K. T., Grant, A., Johnson, B., Sundstrom, K. D., Saleh, M. N., & Little, S. E.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Duncan, Kathryn T||Grant, Amber||Johnson, Britny||Sundstrom, Kellee D||Saleh, Meriam N||Little, Susan E

publication date

  • January 2021