Prevalence and Strains of Colorado Tick Fever Virus in Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana

Brandi N. Williamson, Robert J. Fischer, Job E. Lopez, Hideki Ebihara, Tom G. Schwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The Rocky Mountain wood tick, Dermacentor andersoni, has long been known to transmit human pathogens. Within the Bitterroot Valley, Ravalli County, Montana, these agents include Rickettsia rickettsii, Francisella tularensis, and Colorado tick fever virus (CTFV). Found in the western United States where wood ticks occur, CTFV causes a biphasic, febrile illness in humans and persists in enzootic cycles involving the ticks and small mammals. CTFV belongs to the genus Coltivirus, family Reoviridae, whose genome consists of 12 double-stranded RNA segments. Previous studies revealed the presence of CTFV-infected ticks and rodents in select locations within the valley in the 1960s and 1970s, using animal and cell culture methods for detection. We aimed to determine the range and prevalence of the virus in adult questing ticks throughout the valley using molecular tools and to examine the genomic variation between virus strains. Adult D. andersoni ticks were collected during 2002-2003 and 2009-2013. RNA extractions and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction were performed on 921 ticks, of which 61 ticks were positive for CTFV, resulting in a 6.6% prevalence of infection. Four genetic loci, one from each of the segments 9, 10, 11, and 12, within the viral genome were sequenced. Reassortment was detected between CTFV sequence strains within the valley. This study confirmed the prevalence of CTFV in D. andersoni ticks within the Bitterroot Valley, which has remained at levels found in the 1950s and 60s. Additional CTFV sequences were obtained and evidence of reassortment was observed between strains within the valley.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-702
Number of pages9
JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Dermacentor andersoni
  • reassortment
  • vector borne

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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