During spring and fall 2009, 60 wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) harvested by Tennessee hunters were surveyed for Borrelia spp. by sampling their blood, tissue, and attached ticks. In both seasons, 70% of turkeys were infested with juvenile Amblyomma americanum; one spring turkey hosted an adult female Ixodes brunneus. Polymerase chain reaction assays followed by DNA sequencing indicated that 58% of the turkeys were positive for the spirochete Borrelia miyamotoi, with tissue testing positive more frequently than blood (P = 0.015). Sequencing of the 16S–23S rRNA intergenic spacer indicated ≥99% similarity to previously published sequences of the North American strain of this spirochete. Positive turkeys were present in both seasons and from all seven middle Tennessee counties sampled. No ticks from the turkeys tested positive for any Borrelia spp. This is the first report of B. miyamotoi in birds; the transmission pathways and epidemiological significance of this high-prevalence spirochetal infection remain uncertain.
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Vol. 47 • No. 6