Science abhors a surveillance vacuum: Detection of ticks and tick-borne pathogens in southern New Mexico through passive surveillance

Paige R. Harman, Nicole L. Mendell, Maysee M. Harman, Puck A. Draney, Anna T. Boyle, Matthew E. Gompper, Teri J. Orr, Donald H. Bouyer, Pete D. Teel, Kathryn A. Hanley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Robust tick surveillance enhances diagnosis and prevention of tick-borne pathogens, yet surveillance efforts in the United States are highly uneven, resulting in large surveillance vacuums, one of which spans the state of New Mexico. As part of a larger effort to fill this vacuum, we conducted both active and passive tick sampling in New Mexico, focusing on the southern portion of the state. We conducted active tick sampling using dragging and CO2 trapping at 45 sites across Hidalgo, Doña Ana, Otero, and Eddy counties between June 2021 to May 2022. Sampling occurred intermittently, with at least one sampling event each month from June to October 2021, pausing in winter and resuming in March through May 2022. We also conducted opportunistic, passive tick sampling in 2021 and 2022 from animals harvested by hunters or captured or collected by researchers and animals housed in animal hospitals, shelters, and farms. All pools of ticks were screened for Rickettsia rickettsii, Rickettsia parkeri, Rickettsia amblyommatis, Ehrlichia ewingii, and Ehrlichia chaffeensis. Active sampling yielded no ticks. Passive sampling yielded 497 ticks comprising Carios kelleyi from pallid bats, Rhipicephalus sanguineus from dogs, mule deer, and Rocky Mountain elk, Otobius megnini from dogs, cats, horses, and Coues deer, Dermacentor parumapertus from dogs and black-tailed jackrabbits, Dermacentor albipictus from domesticated cats, mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk, and Dermacentor spp. from American black bear, Rocky Mountain elk, and mule deer. One pool of D. parumapterus from a black-tailed jackrabbit in Luna County tested positive for R. parkeri, an agent of spotted fever rickettsiosis. Additionally, a spotted fever group Rickettsia was detected in 6 of 7 C. kelleyi pools. Two ticks showed morphological abnormalities; however, these samples did not test positive for any of the target pathogens, and the cause of the abnormalities is unknown. Passive surveillance yielded five identified species of ticks from three domestic and six wild mammal species. Our findings update tick distributions and inform the public, medical, and veterinary communities of the potential tick-borne pathogens present in southern New Mexico.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0292573
JournalPloS one
Issue number1 January
StatePublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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