Growth Dynamics and Antibiotic Elimination of Symbiotic Rickettsia buchneri in the Tick Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae)

Jonathan D. Oliver, Lisa D. Price, Nicole Y. Burkhardt, Chan C. Heu, Benedict S. Khoo, Cody J. Thorpe, Timothy J. Kurtti, Ulrike G. Munderloh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Rickettsia buchneri is the principal symbiotic bacterium of the medically significant tick Ixodes scapularis This species has been detected primarily in the ovaries of adult female ticks and is vertically transmitted, but its tissue tropism in other life stages and function with regard to tick physiology is unknown. In order to determine the function of R. buchneri, it may be necessary to produce ticks free from this symbiont. We quantified the growth dynamics of R. buchneri naturally occurring in I. scapularis ticks throughout their life cycle and compared it with bacterial growth in ticks in which symbiont numbers were experimentally reduced or eliminated. To eliminate the bacteria, we exposed ticks to antibiotics through injection and artificial membrane feeding. Both injection and membrane feeding of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin were effective at eliminating R. buchneri from most offspring of exposed females. Because of its effectiveness and ease of use, we have determined that injection of ciprofloxacin into engorged female ticks is an efficient means of clearing R. buchneri from the majority of progeny. IMPORTANCE This paper describes the growth of symbiotic Rickettsia buchneri within Ixodes scapularis through the life cycle of the tick and provides methods to eliminate R. buchneri from I. scapularis ticks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01672-20
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project came from U.S. National Institutes of Health grants R01AI81690 and R01AI049424 to Ulrike G. Munderloh.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


  • Ixodes scapularis
  • Rickettsia buchneri
  • endosymbionts
  • symbiont
  • Symbiosis
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Ciprofloxacin/pharmacology
  • Male
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents/pharmacology
  • Rickettsia/drug effects
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins/genetics
  • Female
  • Ixodes/microbiology
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


Dive into the research topics of 'Growth Dynamics and Antibiotic Elimination of Symbiotic Rickettsia buchneri in the Tick Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this