Vertically-transmitted bacterial symbionts are widespread in ticks and have manifold impacts on the epidemiology of tick-borne diseases. For instance, they may provide essential nutrients to ticks, affect vector competence, induce immune responses in vertebrate hosts, or even evolve to become vertebrate pathogens. The deer or blacklegged tick Ixodes scapularis harbours the symbiont Rickettsia buchneri in its ovarian tissues. Here we show by molecular, proteomic and imaging methods that R. buchneri is also capable of colonising the salivary glands of wild I. scapularis. This finding has important implications for the diagnosis of rickettsial infections and for pathogen-symbiont interactions in this notorious vector of Lyme borreliosis.
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