Overlapping geographic distributions of tick-borne disease agents utilizing the same tick vectors are common, and coinfection of humans, domestic animals, wildlife, and ticks with both Borrelia burgdorferi and Anaplasma phagocytophilum has been frequently reported. This study was undertaken in order to evaluate the prevalence of both B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (hereinafter referred to as B. burgdorferi) and A. phagocytophilum in several species of sciurid rodents from northern California, USA. Rodents were either collected dead as road-kills or live-trapped in four state parks from 13 counties. Thirty-seven western gray squirrels (Sciurus griseus), nine nonnative eastern gray squirrels (S. carolinensis) and an eastern fox squirrel (S. niger), four Douglas squirrels (Tamiasciurus douglasii), and two northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) were tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serology for evidence of coinfection. Of the 14 individual S. griseus that were PCR-positive for B. burgdorferi, two (14%) also were PCR-positive for A. phagocytophilum and 11 (79%) had serologic evidence of A. phagocytophilum exposure. Two of the four Douglas squirrels were PCR positive for B. burgdorferi and seropositive to A. phagocytophilum. Evidence of coinfection with these zoonotic pathogens in western gray squirrels suggests that both bacteria may be maintained in a similar transmission cycle involving this sciurid and the western black-legged tick Ixodes pacificus, the primary bridging vector to humans in the far-western US.
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Vol. 46 • No. 1