Potential effects of blood meal host on bacterial community composition in Ixodes scapularis nymphs

William J. Landesman, Kenneth Mulder, Brian F. Allan, Laura A. Bashor, Felicia Keesing, Kathleen LoGiudice, Richard S. Ostfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tick microbiomes may play an important role in pathogen transmission. However, the drivers of microbiome variation are poorly understood, and this limitation has impeded mechanistic understanding of the functions of microbial communities for pathogen acquisition. The goal of this research was to characterize the role of the blood meal host in structuring the microbiome of Ixodes scapularis, the primary vector of Lyme disease in the eastern United States, and to determine if ticks that fed from different host species harbor distinct bacterial communities. We performed high-throughput 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing on I. scapularis nymphs that fed as larvae from known wildlife hosts: raccoon, Virginia opossum, striped skunk, red squirrel or gray squirrel. Using Analysis of Similarity, we found significant differences in the abundance-weighted Unifrac distance matrix among ticks fed from different host species (p = 0.048) and a highly significant difference in the weighted and unweighted Unifrac matrices for individuals within species (p < 0.01). This finding of associations between the blood meal host and I. scapularis microbiome demonstrates that the blood meal host may be a driver of microbiome variation that should be accounted for in studies of pathogen acquisition by ticks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-527
Number of pages5
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Ixodes scapularis
  • Lyme disease
  • Microbiome
  • Vector-host interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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