Gabrielle Stryker (Biological Sciences)
Rickettsia rickettsii is a pathogenic bacterium that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever in individuals who have been the recipient of a tick bite. Rocky Mountain spotted fever causes fever, headache, rashes, and can be deadly in those who do not receive proper treatment. In the North Eastern part of the United States, tick surveillance is a common method used to identify the prevalence of pathogenic bacteria. In Washington State, however, the detection of this pathogenic bacterium is primarily based on human incidence. My project focused on identifying the prevalence of R. rickettsii in the Kittitas County tick population. Methodology include dragging known tick areas for collection of specimens, donations of ticks from local residents, and DNA sequencing for detecting pathogenic bacteria. The ticks collected were identified by comparison of mouth and body signatures to known species, which resulted in the identification of two tick genera, Ixodes and Dermacentor. After DNA extraction, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was performed in order to identify the presence of R. rickettsii. Results confirm the presence of this bacterium in at least one tick. A number of ticks indicated the possibility of infection, but more research must be done in order to confirm.
Keywords: Tick, Bacteria, Disease