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Keywords:

  • Wolbachia;
  • Amblyomma americanum;
  • tick;
  • nematode;
  • Acanthocheilonema;
  • MLST

Abstract

The lone star tick Amblyomma americanum is host to a wide diversity of endosymbiotic bacteria. We identified a novel Wolbachia symbiont infecting A. americanum. Multilocus sequence typing phylogenetically placed the endosymbiont in the increasingly diverse F supergroup. We assayed a total of 1031 ticks (119 females, 78 males and 834 nymphs in 89 pools) from 16 Maryland populations for infection. Infection frequencies in the natural populations were approximately 5% in females and <2% (minimum infection rate) in nymphs; infection was not detected in males. Infected populations were only observed in southern Maryland, suggesting the possibility that Wolbachia is currently invading Maryland A. americanum populations. Because F supergroup Wolbachia have been detected previously in filarial nematodes, tick samples were assayed for nematodes by PCR. Filarial nematodes were detected in 70% and 9% of Wolbachia-positive and Wolbachia-negative tick samples, respectively. While nematodes were more common in Wolbachia-positive tick samples, the lack of a strict infection concordance (Wolbachia-positive, nematode-negative and Wolbachia-negative, nematode-positive ticks) suggests that Wolbachia prevalence in ticks is not due to nematode infection. Supporting this hypothesis, phylogenetic analysis indicated that the nematodes were likely a novel species within the genus Acanthocheilonema, which has been previously shown to be Wolbachia-free.