Human monocytic ehrlichiosis is an emerging zoonosis caused by infection with Ehrlichia chaffeensis Anderson, Dawson, Jones & Wilson, which is transmitted to mammals by ixodid ticks. Prevalence of infected ticks and distribution of infection foci indicate relative risk of human exposure to ehrlichiosis and may be influenced by factors such as geographic isolation, human disturbance, and the availability of suitable mammalian reservoir hosts. To test this, individual and pooled lone star ticks, Amblyomma americanum (L.), were collected from three populations from the Georgia coast (1 mainland site and two barrier islands) and screened for E. chaffeensis. A species-specific, nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay was used to amplify a 572 bp fragment of the E. chaffeensis 16S rRNA gene from infected ticks. PCR product specificity was confirmed by nucleotide sequencing. Our results showed the prevalence of infected ticks to be 0.0% (n = 151), 0.9% (n = 111), and 9.3% (n = 129) for Sapelo Island, St. Catherine’s Island, and Fort McAllister, respectively.
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Vol. 37 • No. 2