Serologic assessment for exposure to spotted fever group rickettsiae in dogs in the Arizona–Sonora border region

Hayley D. Yaglom, William L. Nicholson, Mariana Casal, Nathan C. Nieto, Laura Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a severe tick-borne rickettsial illness. In the south-western United States and Mexico, RMSF displays unique epidemiologic and ecologic characteristics, including Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato (brown dog tick) as the primary vector. Expansion and spread of the disease from hyperendemic regions of Arizona or Mexico to new areas is a key public health concern. Dogs are thought to play an important role in the emergence and circulation of R. rickettsii in these regions and are often one of earliest indicators of RMSF presence. A canine serosurvey was conducted in 2015 among owned and stray dogs at rabies clinic and animal shelters in three southern Arizona counties where RMSF had not previously been identified. Of the 217 dogs sampled, 11 (5.1%) tested positive for spotted fever group rickettsia (SFGR) IgG antibodies, with seropositivity ranging from 2.9% to 12.2% across the three counties. Large dogs were significantly more likely than small dogs to have positive titres reactive with R. rickettsii; no additional statistically significant relationships were observed between seropositivity of canine age, sex, neuter or ownership status. In addition, 17 (7.8%) dogs had ticks attached at the time of sampling, and stray dogs were significantly more likely to have ticks present than owned dogs (p < 0.001). All 57 ticks collected were identified as Rh. sanguineus s.l., and four (7%) had DNA evidence of genera-wide Rickettsia species. The results of this project demonstrated canine seroprevalence levels lower than those previously reported from dogs in highly endemic areas, indicating a low risk of SFGR transmission to humans in the southern Arizona border region at this time. Continued surveillance is critical to identify SFGR emergence in new geographic regions and to inform prevention efforts for humans and dogs in those areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)984-992
Number of pages9
JournalZoonoses and Public Health
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Rhipicephalus sanguineus
  • Rickettsia rickettsii
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • dog
  • serosurvey
  • spotted fever group
  • ticks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Veterinary
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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