Abstract: Factors Affecting the Prevalence and Distribution of Ehrlichia chaffeensis, a Tick-Borne Pathogen Causing Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis

As tick-borne diseases are on the rise across the United States it becomes more important to understand and predict their distribution. There is a lot of talk, but little empirical evidence, regarding the effect of human land use on the distribution of ticks and tick-borne diseases, especially outside of the Lyme-disease system. Here in Virginia, there is growing concern about Ehrlichia chaffeensis, a pathogenic bacterium transmitted by the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) and carried by the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Over the course of my 10 week Freshman Monroe Project, I will investigate how the interaction of human land use, white-tailed deer habitat use, and moisture availability (a key factor determining tick survival) influences the distribution of adult lone star ticks and E. chaffeensis. My Monroe research is a collaboration with Dr. Matthias Leu and graduate student Dylan Simpson (both landscape ecologists/conservation biologists), and Dr. Kerscher (molecular biologist).

[Read more…]