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Co-infection of Ornithodoros coriaceus with the relapsing fever spirochete, Borrelia coriaceae, and the agent of epizootic bovine abortion


Mike B. Teglas, Department of Animal Biotechnology, University of Nevada, 1664 North Virginia Avenue—MS 202, Reno, NV 89957, U.S.A. Tel.: +1 775 784 1002; Fax: +1 775 784 1375; E-mail:


The soft tick, Ornithodoros coriaceus (Koch) (Acari: Argasidae), is a common mammalian parasite of livestock in many arid regions of the western U.S.A. The tick is a known vector of the undescribed bacterial pathogen that causes epizootic bovine abortion (EBA), which results in late-term abortions in beef cattle and subsequent economic loss, which can be considerable, to producers. A second reported bacterial pathogen, Borrelia coriaceae, a member of the relapsing fever complex, has also been identified in this tick and was at one time hypothesized to be the aetiological agent of EBA. In order to test whether bacterial infections in ticks overlapped geographically and to determine the prevalence of co-infection in O. coriaceus populations, we used molecular methods to detect bacterial DNA from ticks collected from a wide variety of habitats in California, Nevada and Oregon. Of the 15 sites at which ticks tested positive for the agent of EBA (aoEBA), eight also contained ticks positive for Borrelia spp. by polymerase chain reaction assay. Additionally, two ticks were co-infected; both of these were collected from the same location. Univariate risk analysis indicated the presence of juniper-dominated habitat at the collection site and geographic location to be significantly associated with infection of the tick vector by either pathogen.