Ecology of Ixodes pacificus Ticks and Associated Pathogens in the Western United States

Pathogens. 2022 Jan 13;11(1):89. doi: 10.3390/pathogens11010089.


Lyme disease is the most important vector-borne disease in the United States and is increasing in incidence and geographic range. In the Pacific west, the western black-legged tick, Ixodes pacificus Cooley and Kohls, 1943 is an important vector of the causative agent of Lyme disease, the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi. Ixodes pacificus life cycle is expected to be more than a year long, and all three stages (larva, nymph, and adult) overlap in spring. The optimal habitat consists of forest cover, cooler temperatures, and annual precipitation in the range of 200-500 mm. Therefore, the coastal areas of California, Oregon, and Washington are well suited for these ticks. Immature stages commonly parasitize Western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) and gray squirrels (Sciurus griseus), while adults often feed on deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) and black-tailed deer (Odocoileus h. columbianus). Ixodes pacificus carry several pathogens of human significance, such as Borrelia burgdorferi, Bartonella, and Rickettsiales. These pathogens are maintained in the environment by many hosts, including small mammals, birds, livestock, and domestic animals. Although a great deal of work has been carried out on Ixodes ticks and the pathogens they transmit, understanding I. pacificus ecology outside California still lags. Additionally, the dynamic vector-host-pathogen system means that new factors will continue to arise and shift the epidemiological patterns within specific areas. Here, we review the ecology of I. pacificus and the pathogens this tick is known to carry to identify gaps in our knowledge.

Keywords: Ixodes; Ixodes pacificus; Lyme borreliosis; tick ecology; tick-borne pathogens; ticks.

Publication types

  • Review