Human anaplasmosis is an emerging tick-borne disease in the United States, but few studies of the causative agent, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, have been conducted in southeastern states. The aim of this study was to determine if A. phagocytophilum is present in small mammals and ticks in northeast Florida. Polymerase chain reaction assays designed to amplify portions of the major surface protein 2 gene (p44), 16S rDNA, and groESL operons were used to test rodent blood and tick DNA samples for the presence of A. phagocytophilum. Positive samples were confirmed by DNA sequence analysis. Anaplasma phagocytophilum DNA was detected in less than 5% of cotton mice and 45% of cotton rats from two sites in northeast Florida. Anaplasma phagocytophilum DNA was also confirmed in 1.3% of host-seeking adult Ixodes scapularis tested and 2.7% of host-seeking adult Amblyomma americanum. This report describes the first DNA sequence data confirming strains of A. phagocytophilum in rodents and ticks in Florida. The DNA sequences of the msp2, 16S rDNA, and groESL gene fragments obtained in this study were highly similar to reference strains of human pathogenic strains of A. phagocytophilum. These findings suggest that A. phagocytophilum is present and established among some small mammal species in northeast Florida. Although the infection prevalence was low in the total number of ticks tested, the presence of A. phagocytophilum in two human biting tick species, one of which is a known competent vector, suggests that humans in this region may be at risk of granulocytic anaplasmosis caused by this pathogen.
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Vol. 37 • No. 1