Biosurveillance utilizing engorged ticks as phlebotomists for xenodiagnosis
Emerging infectious diseases pose a global threat to both human and animal health. The majority of novel zoonotic pathogens occur along the interface between humans, domestic animals, and wildlife creating complex ecological interactions that can be intricate and difficult to decipher. The availability of a diverse array of methods and techniques of sampling and diagnosing these diseases expands the effectiveness of the surveillance programs needed to enact countermeasures to counteract their effects. The purpose of the research reported here is to investigate the use of ticks as biological samplers for the purpose of antibody-based xenosurveillance. We show that antibody diagnostic techniques can be applied to tick blood meal samples and discuss the implications of this technology to understanding host immune status. In order to complete this work, we t also evaluated and expanded the use of membrane feeding in laboratory-derived tick colonies, and describe the use of a novel feeding apparatus for Argasid tick species which will expand the techniques available for use in arthropod laboratory research. When combined with other techniques, determining host antibody presence in tick blood meals could prove useful as part of a passive surveillance toolkit. This study confirms that ticks can function as bioaccumulators of host animal antibodies and provides a proof of concept that this information can be translated into a component of a serosurveillance program.