Targeted metagenomics for clinical detection and discovery of bacterial tick-borne pathogens

Luke Kingry, Sarah Sheldon, Stephanie Oatman, Bobbi Pritt, Melissa Anacker, Jenna Bjork, David Neitzel, Anna Strain, Jon Berry, Lynne Sloan, Laurel Respicio-Kingry, Elizabeth Dietrich, Karen Bloch, Abelardo Moncayo, Ganesh Srinivasamoorthy, Bin Hu, Alison Hinckley, Paul Mead, Kiersten Kugeler, Jeannine Petersena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Tick-borne diseases, due to a diversity of bacterial pathogens, represent a significant and increasing public health threat throughout the Northern Hemisphere. A high-throughput 16S V1-V2 rRNA gene-based metagenomics assay was developed and evaluated using >13,000 residual samples from patients suspected of having tick-borne illness and >1,000 controls. Taxonomic predictions for tick-borne bacteria were exceptionally accurate, as independently validated by secondary testing. Overall, 881 specimens were positive for bacterial tick-borne agents. Twelve tickborne bacterial species were detected, including two novel pathogens, representing a 100% increase in the number of tick-borne bacteria identified compared to what was possible by initial PCR testing. In three blood specimens, two tick-borne bacteria were simultaneously detected. Seven bacteria, not known to be tick transmitted, were also confirmed to be unique to samples from persons suspected of having tick-borne illness. These results indicate that 16S V1-V2 metagenomics can greatly simplify diagnosis and accelerate the discovery of bacterial tick-borne pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00147-20
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Anaplasmosis
  • Human granulocytic ehrlichiosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Metagenomics
  • Tick-borne bacteria
  • Vector-borne diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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