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Exposing Laboratory-Reared Fleas to Soil and Wild Flea Feces Increases Transmission of Yersinia pestis

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  • Division of Vector-Borne Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, Colorado

Laboratory-reared Oropsylla montana were exposed to soil and wild-caught Oropsylla montana feces for 1 week. Fleas from these two treatments and a control group of laboratory-reared fleas were infected with Yersinia pestis, the etiological agent of plague. Fleas exposed to soil transmitted Y. pestis to mice at a significantly greater rate (50.0% of mice were infected) than control fleas (23.3% of mice were infected). Although the concentration of Y. pestis in fleas did not differ among treatments, the minimum transmission efficiency of fleas from the soil and wild flea feces treatments (6.9% and 7.6%, respectively) were more than three times higher than in control fleas (2.2%). Our results suggest that exposing laboratory-reared fleas to diverse microbes alters transmission of Y. pestis.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Ryan Jones, PO Box 173120, Bozeman, MT 59717. E-mail: DrRyanJones@gmail.com

Authors' addresses: Ryan T. Jones, Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, E-mail: DrRyanJones@gmail.com. Sara M. Vetter, Minnesota State Health Department - Virology/Immunology Unit, St. Paul, MN, E-mail: smvetter@hotmail.com. Kenneth L. Gage, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Division of Vector-Borne Disease, Fort Collins, CO, E-mail: klg0@cdc.gov.

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