From June to October 2010, 48 endangered riparian brush rabbits (Sylvilagus bachmani riparius) were trapped at a captive propagation site in central California with the intention of release into re-established habitats. During prerelease examinations, ticks and blood samples were collected for surveillance for Rickettsia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia burgdorferi, and Bartonella spp. Ticks were identified, and DNA was extracted for PCR analysis. Serology was performed to detect exposure to Rickettsia spp., B. burgdorferi, and A. phagocytophilum. DNA was extracted from blood samples and analyzed for A. phagocytophilum using PCR assays. Rabbit blood samples were also cultured for Bartonella spp. Haemaphysalis leporispalustris ticks were detected on all rabbits except one. A total of 375 ticks were collected, with 48% of the rabbits (23 rabbits) having a burden ranging from 0 to 5 ticks, 15% (seven rabbits) from 6 to 10 ticks, 25% (12 rabbits) from 11 to 15 ticks, and 12% (six rabbits) with >15 ticks. There was no evidence of B. burgdorferi or R. rickettsii in tick or rabbit samples. There was also no evidence of Bartonella spp. in the rabbit samples. Four tick samples and 14 rabbits were weakly PCR positive for A. phagocytophilum, and six rabbits were antibody positive for A. phagocytophilum. These results suggest that there may be little risk of these tick-borne diseases in riparian brush rabbits or to the people in contact with them.
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Vol. 50 • No. 2