Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Felicia Keesing

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Microbiomes are the community of microbes that live on and within another organism. Previous research has implicated the microbiome associated with humans in a variety of human health disorders. Little research has focused on the microbiomes of other organisms that affect human health, like the arthropods responsible for transmitting diseases. Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, and vectored by the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis. Ticks feed on a wide range of vertebrates. Some host species are competent reservoirs for pathogens, while others are not. When a tick feeds on a mouse or chipmunk, it is likely to acquire the Lyme disease bacterium, but not when it feeds on an opossum. In this study, I examined the effect of host meal on the tick microbiome. I generated 16S rRNA clone libraries from larval, chipmunk-fed, and opossum-fed ticks. I sequenced the clones, and found a diverse community of bacteria from 15 different bacterial families. A Rickettsia-symbiont was found in all ticks sampled. Only ticks that fed on chipmunks harbored a Wolbachia-like symbiont. However, I likely did not fully sample the tick microbiome. Further characterization of the tick microbiome and its response to host meal necessitates next-generation, high-throughput sequencing of the tick microbiome. This will facilitate a more comprehensive and enlightening exploration of the interactions between the tick, its microbiome, and pathogens the tick vectors.

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