A serologic survey for the agents of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) (Rickettsia rickettsii), Borrelia spp. including the causative agent for Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), and plague (Yersinia pestis) was conducted on blood samples collected from 30 and 46 black-tailed jack rabbits (Lepus californicus) from an urban environment in Lubbock, Texas (USA) during winter 1987 and the following spring 1988, respectively. Antibody titers to the agents of RMSF and borreliosis were detected in sera of 28 and 1% of the jack rabbits, respectively. Neither organisms (rickettsiae and/or spirochetes) nor their associated antigens were detected in any of the tissue or whole blood samples; plague antibodies were not detected in the 76 jack rabbits sampled. Four of 18 ticks (Dermacentor parumapertus) removed from 12 jack rabbits were positive for RMSF using the fluorescent antibody test. The black-tailed jack rabbit is a common wildlife species living in close proximity to higher density human populations in many areas of the southwestern United States. Our results indicate the potential importance of urban populations of this mammal as reservoirs for at least one important zoonotic disease, RMSF, in western Texas.
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Vol. 26 • No. 1