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Reverse line blot probe design and polymerase chain reaction optimization for bloodmeal analysis of ticks from the eastern United States.

  • Scott, M C
  • Harmon, J R
  • Tsao, J I
  • Jones, C J
  • Hickling, G J
Published Article
Journal of medical entomology
Publication Date
May 01, 2012
PMID: 22679879


Determining the host preference of vector ticks is vital to elucidating the eco-epidemiology of the diseases they spread. Detachment of ticks from captured hosts can provide evidence of feeding on those host species, but only for those species that are feasible to capture. Recently developed, highly sensitive molecular assays show great promise in allowing host selection to be determined from minute traces of host DNA that persist in recently molted ticks. Using methods developed in Europe as a starting-point, we designed 12S rDNA mitochondrial gene probes suitable for use in a reverse line blot (RLB) assay of ticks feeding on common host species in the eastern United States. This is the first study to use the 12S mitochondrial gene in a RLB bloodmeal assay in North America. The assay combines conventional PCR with a biotin-labeled primer and reverse line blots that can be stripped and rehybridized up to 20 times, making the method less expensive and more straightforward to interpret than previous methods of tick bloodmeal identification. Probes were designed that target the species, genus, genus group, family, order, or class of eight reptile, 13 birds, and 32 mammal hosts. After optimization, the RLB assay correctly identified the current hostspecies for 99% of ticks [Amblyomma americanum (L.) and eight other ixodid tick species] collected directly from known hosts. The method identified previous-host DNA for approximately half of all questing ticks assayed. Multiple bloodmeal determinations were obtained in some instances from feeding and questing ticks; this pattern is consistent with previous RLB studies but requires further investigation. Development of this probe library, suitable for eastern U.S. ecosystems, opens new avenues for eco-epidemiological investigations of this region's tick-host systems.

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