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Grand Teton National Park Report

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First described in 1885 by Viktor Babes, babesiosis was the first known arthropod vector-borne disease and the general term for the malaria-like infection due to protozoan parasites of the family Babesiidae of which there are on the order of 100 known species of worldwide distribution (CDC, Hunfeld et al. 2008). The overarching objective of this study is to examine the phylogenetic relatedness of the endemic strain(s) of Babesia microti isolated from voles (Microtus montanus, M. pennsylvanicus) in the Grand Teton National Park to previously described babesia species/strains. In the United States the rodent parasite B. microti is the etiological agent of babesiosis in areas of endemicity with the primary reservoir often described as the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) and borne by the arthropod vector the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) (Persing et al. 1992, Mitchell et al. 1996) The primary reservoir within the Grand Teton National Park region has been shown to be the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) and the montane vole (Microtus montanus) (Watkins et al. 1991, Peck 1998) It is these reservoir host animals which the present research proposes to investigate. To this end, the research aspects specific to our IACUC proposal are to obtain blood samples for subsequent genotyping of B. microti samples for comparison to those previously isolated from wild populations of voles from the Grand Teton National Park region (Peck 1998). This research generally involves comparing DNA sequences from isolates to those of previously described strains focusing on the B-tubulin genes. This was selected to give a more particular phylogeny than was possible by previously employed methods such as immunoassay, which lacks sensitivity and suffers cross-reactivity, and 16s-ribosomal DNA of the past decade, which lacks specificity relative to the less highly-conserved B-tubulin. These samples will be genotyped by sequencing and comparison against the relatively more recent Genbank B-tubulin sequence data submissions for B. microti variants.