Differential exposure to Anaplasma phagocytophilum in rodent species in Northern California

Janet E Foley, S. Bernadette Clueit, Richard N. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a zoonotic tick-borne rickettsial pathogen that causes granulocytic anaplasmosis (GA) in humans, horses, and dogs. In California, dusky-footed woodrats (Neotoma fuscipes) are a putative reservoir host, and Ixodes pacificus is a vector for transmission from rodents to humans, dogs, and horses. Cases are clustered in coastal and Sierra Nevada foothill regions, but not necessarily in proximity to infected woodrats. This study was designed to compare exposures and active infections of A. phagocytophilum in multiple rodents at a fine spatial scale in a hyperenzootic area and to evaluate the spatial clustering of infections. Of 331 rodents, the seroprevalence was 14.5, with 60 in tree squirrels (Sciurus griseus and Tamiasciurus douglasii), 29 in woodrats, 14 in flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus), and 5 in chipmunks (Tamias senex). No seropositive ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) were detected. The seroprevalence was significantly higher west of the Trinity River (23.1) than east (11.8) of the river. One Douglas squirrel and one western gray squirrel were polymerase chain reaction (PCR) positive. There was more spatial clustering among seropositive animals compared with all animals tested across the spatial scales evaluated, and this clustering was significantly greater than expected by chance alone. A significant cluster of 24 seropositive animals was found west of the Trinity River, with a population of 56 animals considered within the 50 population-at-risk, and a radius of 362.8 meters. The diversity of cricetine and sciurid rodents infected suggests that squirrels and chipmunks may be underappreciated contributors to A. phagocytophilum ecology in the western United States. The spatial clustering of exposed animals suggests interesting underlying spatially heterogeneous environmental variables that could facilitate the persistence of A. phagocytophilum in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-55
Number of pages7
JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2008


  • Granulocytic anaplasmosis
  • Rodents
  • Tick-borne disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology


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