Evaluating the Prevalence of Tick-Borne Viruses Circulating in Virginia Using a One-Health Approach

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Virginia Tech


Ticks are hematophagous ectoparasites capable of transmitting various pathogens, including bacteria, protozoa, and viruses, to vertebrates. In the United States, tick-borne pathogens are responsible for around 95% of arthropod-borne diseases. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness. However, emerging tick-borne viruses such as Bourbon virus (BRBV), Powassan virus (POWV), and Heartland virus (HRTV) can cause more severe health problems, including death and neurological abnormalities. The reports of molecular detection of viral RNA in field-collected ticks and serological evidence in a pilot study of wildlife species suggest the presence of these emerging viruses in Virginia. The presence poses a serious health threat, but the extent of their presence or circulation in Virginia is unknown. The objectives of the research are (1) to determine the evidence of circulation of POWV, HRTV, and BRBV in Virginia through serological assessment of domestic and wild animals in Virginia and (2) estimate transmission parameters and the basic reproduction number underlying tick-borne virus distribution and prevalence via a mathematical model. Here, we discuss the known literature relevant to tick-borne virus emergence; we assessed the presence of specific neutralizing antibodies against POWV, HRTV, and BRBV in wildlife and livestock sera collected from different health planning regions in Virginia. We used a susceptible-infected-susceptible (SIS) ordinary differential equation model to estimate transmission parameters that best describe the disease dynamics of emerging tick-borne viruses in Virginia. In our study, wildlife sera were seropositive against POWV (18%), BRBV (8%), and HRTV (5%). A wide range of different wildlife species were shown to be exposed to each virus examined. Livestock are also exposed to tick-borne viruses, with seroprevalences of 1%, 1.2%, and 8% detected in cattle for POWV, BRBV, and HRTV, respectively. We estimated the transmission rate and basic reproduction number to be 1.57 and 0.645, respectively. In conclusion, there is a widespread circulation of tick-borne viruses in western and northern Virginia within diverse species of animal populations.



Powassan virus, Heartland virus, Bourbon virus, Ixodes scapularis, Amblyomma americanum, wildlife, livestock, tick-borne viruses, serology, surveillance, Virginia