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Borreliosis transmission from ticks to humans associated with desert tortoise burrows: Examples of tick-borne relapsing fever in the Mojave Desert

June 18, 2021

Ticks transmit pathogens and parasitize wildlife in turn causing zoonotic diseases in many ecosystems. Argasid ticks, such as Ornithodoros spp., harbor and transmit Borrelia spp., resulting in tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) in people. In the western United States, TBRF is typically associated with the bite of an infected Ornithodoros hermsi tick found in habitats at high elevations (>1500 ft). This report describes the first TBRF cases in people in the Mojave Desert (Clark County, NV). Individuals documented in these case studies were exposed to Ornithodoros ticks during excavation of soil burrows associated with Mojave Desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii), with bacteria from one of the human case's blood sample genetically matching to Borrelia turicatae as determined by quantitative PCR and sequencing. Our findings should serve as a precaution to individuals working with tortoises or animal burrows, or those in contact with Ornithodoros ticks in this region.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Borreliosis transmission from ticks to humans associated with desert tortoise burrows: Examples of tick-borne relapsing fever in the Mojave Desert
DOI 10.1089/vbz.2021.0005
Authors Molly J Bechtel, K. Kristina Drake, Todd C. Esque, Nathan C Nieto, Jeffrey T. Foster, Mike B Teglas
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Series Number
Index ID 70221753
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center