A Next-Generation Sequencing-Based Molecular Approach to Characterize a Tick Vector in Lyme Disease

Anil K. Madugundu, Babylakshmi Muthusamy, Sreelakshmi K. Sreenivasamurthy, Chandra Bhavani, Jyoti Sharma, Bankatesh Kumar, Krishna R. Murthy, Raju Ravikumar, Akhilesh Pandey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Next-generation sequencing approaches have revolutionized genomic medicine and enabled rapid diagnosis for several diseases. These approaches are widely used for pathogen detection in several infectious diseases. Lyme disease is a tick-borne infectious disease, which affects multiple organs. The causative organism is a spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by ticks. Lyme disease can be treated easily if detected early, but its diagnosis is often delayed or is incorrect leading to a chronic debilitating condition. Current confirmatory diagnostic tests for Lyme disease rely on detection of antigens derived from B. burgdorferi, which are prone to both false positives and false negatives. Instead of focusing only on the human host for the diagnosis of Lyme disease, one could also attempt to identify the vector (tick) and the causative organism carried by the tick. Since all ticks do not transmit Lyme disease, it can be informative to accurately identify the tick from the site of bite, which is often observed by the patient and discarded. However, identifying ticks based on morphology alone requires a trained operator and can still be incorrect. Thus, we decided to take a molecular approach by sequencing DNA and RNA from a tick collected from an individual bitten by the tick. Using next-generation sequencing, we confirmed the identity of the tick as a dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis, and did not identify any pathogenic bacterial sequences, including Borrelia species. Despite the limited availability of nucleotide sequences for many types of ticks, our approach correctly identified the tick species. This proof-of-principle study demonstrates the potential of next-generation sequencing in the diagnosis of tick-borne infections, which can also be extended to other zoonotic diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-574
Number of pages10
JournalOMICS A Journal of Integrative Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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