Bovine fecal chemistry changes with progression of Southern Cattle Tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus (Acari: Ixodidae) infestation

Brian T. Rich, Donald B. Thomas, Michael T. Longnecker, Douglas R. Tolleson, Jay Angerer, Adalberto A.Peréz de León, Pete D. Teel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Surveillance for cattle fever ticks is an essential activity in the U.S. Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program which prevents reestablishment of these tick vectors of the pathogens causing bovine babesiosis. Other methods of detecting tick infested cattle could augment current physical inspection of restrained cattle by program inspectors. The objective of this study was to determine whether a single infestation of ∼5000 Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus larvae induced changes in fecal chemistry that were detectable using near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS). Fecal samples were collected daily from 6 tick-infested and 6 non-infested Bos taurus yearling heifers. Each infested animal received ticks from one of 6 different strains of laboratory colonies of R. microplus. Date of drop and daily sum of engorged female ticks were tabulated to characterize each infestation. Cluster, common factor, principal component and MANOVA analyses were used to define and assess fecal spectra changes associated with experimental stages of infestation. Cluster analyses found no significant differences in fecal samples from each of the 6 infested heifers. Two shifts in fecal chemistry of infested animals were identified by three clusters of NIRS fecal spectra. The first cluster was comprised of samples from pre-infestation to 9 days after infestation, a period inclusive of larval tick attachment and feeding. The second cluster was comprised of samples from day 10–22 corresponding to the period of nymphal feeding, adult feeding, and early drop of engorged females. A third cluster was comprised of samples from days 23−46 corresponding to the period of engorged female drop and declining tick numbers. A Tukey-Kramer multiple comparison procedure identified significant differences in fecal spectra between five experimental stages of R. microplus infestation for principal component 1 including pre-infestation to nymphal feeding, pre-infestation to adult feeding, larval feeding to adult feeding, nymphal feeding to adult feeding and nymphal feeding to engorged female drop; for principal component 2 including pre-infestation to nymphal feeding, pre-infestation to adult feeding, and pre-infestation to engorged female drop; and for principal component 3 including pre-infestation to drop, and adult feeding to drop. These significant pair-wise comparisons reflect developmental phases of tick attachment and blood-feeding that define periods of increasing, peak and declining stress identified in two fecal chemistry shifts defined by three fecal spectra clusters. Among non-infested animals, two shifts in fecal chemistry were also detected by three fecal-spectra clusters that occurred in synchrony with those of their tick-infested counterparts. There were no significant differences in principal components or MANOVA analyses between infested and non-infested animals and the pattern of significant pair-wise Tukey-Kramer multiple comparisons for non-infested animals were similar to those of infested animals. This unintended confounding effect is attributed to the manner in which all 12 animals were preconditioned as a group, then isolated in randomly assigned blind stalls in a common barn facility for the study, creating the basis for physiological stress resonance among non-infested animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109679
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cattle tick
  • NIRS
  • Near infrared reflectance spectroscopy
  • Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • General Veterinary


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