A Molecular Survey for Francisella tularensis and Rickettsia spp. in Haemaphysalis leporispalustris (Acari: Ixodidae) in Northern California

Tara Roth, Robert S. Lane, Janet E Foley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Francisella tularensis and Rickettsia spp. have been cultured from Haemaphysalis leporispalustris Packard, but their prevalence in this tick has not been determined using modern molecular methods. We collected H. leporispalustris by flagging vegetation and leaf litter and from lagomorphs (Lepus californicus Gray and Sylvilagus bachmani (Waterhouse)) in northern California. Francisella tularensis DNA was not detected in any of 1,030 ticks tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), whereas 0.4% of larvae tested in pools, 0 of 117 individual nymphs, and 2.3% of 164 adult ticks were PCR-positive for Rickettsia spp. Positive sites were Laurel Canyon Trail in Tilden Regional Park in Alameda Contra Costa County, with a Rickettsia spp. prevalence of 0.6% in 2009, and Hopland Research and Extension Center in Mendocino County, with a prevalence of 4.2% in 1988. DNA sequencing revealed R. felis, the agent of cat-flea typhus, in two larval pools from shaded California bay and live oak leaf litter in Contra Costa County and one adult tick from a L. californicus in chaparral in Mendocino County. The R. felis in unfed, questing larvae demonstrates that H. leporispalustris can transmit this rickettsia transovarially. Although R. felis is increasingly found in diverse arthropods and geographical regions, prior literature suggests a typical epidemiological cycle involving mesocarnivores and the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. To our knowledge, this is the first report of R. felis in H. leporispalustris. Natural infection and transovarial transmission of this pathogen in the tick indicate the existence of a previously undocumented wild-lands transmission cycle that may intersect mesocarnivore-reservoired cycles and collectively affect human health risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-495
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Medical Entomology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • cat flea typhus
  • Francisella tularensis
  • Haemaphysalis leporispalustris
  • Rickettsia felis
  • tularemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • veterinary(all)
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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