A mutation associated with resistance to synthetic pyrethroids is widespread in US populations of the tropical lineage of Rhipicephalus sanguineus s.l

Nathan E. Stone, Rebecca Ballard, Reanna M. Bourgeois, Grant L. Pemberton, Ryelan F. McDonough, Megan C. Ruby, Laura H. Backus, Andrés M. López-Pérez, Darrin Lemmer, Zane Koch, Maureen Brophy, Christopher D. Paddock, Gilbert J. Kersh, William L. Nicholson, Jason W. Sahl, Joseph D. Busch, Johanna S. Salzer, Janet E. Foley, David M. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato (s.l.), is an important vector for Rickettsia rickettsii, causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Current public health prevention and control efforts to protect people involve preventing tick infestations on domestic animals and in and around houses. Primary prevention tools rely on acaricides, often synthetic pyrethroids (SPs); resistance to this chemical class is widespread in ticks and other arthropods. Rhipicephalus sanguineus s.l. is a complex that likely contains multiple unique species and although the distribution of this complex is global, there are differences in morphology, ecology, and perhaps vector competence among these major lineages. Two major lineages within Rh. sanguineus s.l., commonly referred to as temperate and tropical, have been documented from multiple locations in North America, but are thought to occupy different ecological niches. To evaluate potential acaricide resistance and better define the distributions of the tropical and temperate lineages throughout the US and in northern Mexico, we employed a highly multiplexed amplicon sequencing approach to characterize sequence diversity at: 1) three loci within the voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) gene, which contains numerous genetic mutations associated with resistance to SPs; 2) a region of the gamma-aminobutyric acid-gated chloride channel gene (GABA-Cl) containing several mutations associated with dieldrin/fipronil resistance in other species; and 3) three mitochondrial genes (COI, 12S, and 16S). We utilized a geographically diverse set of Rh sanguineus s.l. collected from domestic pets in the US in 2013 and a smaller set of ticks collected from canines in Baja California, Mexico in 2021. We determined that a single nucleotide polymorphism (T2134C) in domain III segment 6 of the VGSC, which has previously been associated with SP resistance in Rh. sanguineus s.l., was widespread and abundant in tropical lineage ticks (>50 %) but absent from the temperate lineage, suggesting that resistance to SPs may be common in the tropical lineage. We found evidence of multiple copies of GABA-Cl in ticks from both lineages, with some copies containing mutations associated with fipronil resistance in other species, but the effects of these patterns on fipronil resistance in Rh. sanguineus s.l. are currently unknown. The tropical lineage was abundant and geographically widespread, accounting for 79 % of analyzed ticks and present at 13/14 collection sites. The temperate and tropical lineages co-occurred in four US states, and as far north as New York. None of the ticks we examined were positive for Rickettsia rickettsii or Rickettsia massiliae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102344
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2024


  • Acaricide resistance
  • Rhipicephalus sanguineus
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Spotted fever group rickettsia spp.
  • Ticks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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