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Project 9: Surveillance for Tick- and Flea- Borne Rickettsiacea Along the Texas-Mexico Border Project Leaders: Donald H. Bouyer, Lucas Blanton and David H. Walker (UTMB)

Investigators: D. Bouyer, L. Blanton, D. Walker, C. Vitek and D. Watts

The U.S. communities along the Mexican border are medically underserved, often overlooked in regards to health, and contain relatively densely populated areas in approximation to Mexico, where the lack of effective public health measures put those in the U.S. at risk for spillover of vector-borne infectious diseases. Currently, the Texas counties along the lower Rio Grande Border are highly endemic for murine typhus. The recent surge in cases of murine typhus in more northern parts of Texas highlights the risk for populations where the disease was thought to be eradicated. Interestingly, murine typhus is not being reported in the more arid mountainous region around El Paso. It is unclear if the disease is not present or simply not recognized in this region. Furthermore, little is known of the human exposure to other rickettsiae and ehrlichiae along the Rio Grande Border. To address these questions, we aim to determine the prevalence of typhus group Rickettsia, spotted fever group Rickettsia, and Ehrlichia species in fleas and ticks collected from these regions. We also seek to document the distribution of exposure to these agents along the Rio Grande Border. In particular, we will focus our efforts in the highly populous areas of the El Paso region and the counties of the lower Rio Grande Valley.

This project will involve investigative groups centered around three academic institutions in Texas (the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) and the Texas State Zoonosis Control Veterinarians for those regions.

Western Gulf Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases