Collaborative-tick surveillance works: An academic and government partnership for tick surveillance in the southeastern United States (Acari: Ixodidae)
Tick surveillance provides essential information on distributions and encounter frequencies; it is a component of operational activities in public health practice. Our research objectives were a proof-of-concept for collaborative surveillance, which involved establishing an academic and government partnership to enhance tick surveillance efforts. The University of Tennessee (UT) collaborated with United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA) in an Occupational Health and Safety partnership. UT provided FIA crews in the southeastern United States with vials containing 80% ethanol (July 2014–November 2017). Crew members were instructed to put all encountered ticks into the vials and return them to FIA headquarters. UT identified all submitted ticks to species and life stage, and screened Amblyomma americanum (L.) for Ehrlichia bacteria using a nested-PCR assay. From the 198 returned vials, 1,180 ticks were submitted, including A. americanum (90.51%; 202 larvae, 503 nymphs, and 363 adults), Dermacentor variabilis Say (7.12%; 1 nymph, 83 adults), Ixodes scapularis (Say) (1.61%; 19 adults), Amblyomma maculatum Koch (0.59%; 1 nymph, 6 adults), and Amblyomma cajennense (Fabricius) (0.17%; 1 nymph, 1 adult). FIA crews encountered A. americanum with Ehrlichia and collection information was used to generate baseline occurrence data of tick encounters. Results indicate that this collaborative-tick surveillance can be improved and used to generate useful data including pathogen detection, and because crews revisit these sites, changes in tick encounters can be monitored.