Lorenza Beati's research focuses on the study of the taxonomy, evolutionary relationships, and population genetics of arthropods, in particular hard-ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) and the New World sand fly genus Lutzomyia (Diptera: Psychodidae). These taxonomic groups include a number of species involved in the transmission of diseases to humans and animals.
She is particularly interested in:
- Developing molecular tools for a finer taxonomic identification of different groups of vector species and for linking immature stages of ticks to the corresponding adult species.
- Reassessing the systematic relationships of vector taxa, by phylogenetic analyses of morphological and molecular characters.
- Using phylogenetic reconstructions to better understand the evolutionary history of these taxa, and the development of specific associations between vectors, hosts, pathogens, environment, and geographic distribution.
Studying the intraspecific genetic structure of arthropod vectors of medical importance.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Ecology of the Swiss Alps
Population Genetics of Arthropods
Georgia Southern University SPRInG Grant "Pilot Assessment of Murine Typhus in the Southeastern USA". PI M. Eremeeva; CO-PIs L. Durden, L. Beati
Georgia Southern University Faculty Research Seed Award “Genetic diversity of Ixodes trianguliceps, a nidicolous tick which maintains pathogenic microorganisms in nature” CO-PI W. Irby.
REVSYS NSF grant #1026146 - Exploiting a large existing resource for biogeographical and host-parasite data: linking immature and adult amblyommine ticks
Georgia Southern University Academic Year 2012-2013 Award in Excellence in Research
NSF Collaborative-Linked EID award #914390 - Testing alternative hypotheses for gradients in Lyme disease in the eastern United States: climate, host, community and vector genetic structure
University Aix-Marseille II: Ph.D. 1993
University of Lausanne: M.D., Medicine 1987
Laboratoires de Parasitologie: D.E.A., Parasitology 1985
Media Appearances (3)
A museum of blood-sucking nightmares: the US National Tick Collection
Curator Dr. Lorenza Beati, a smiling woman in wire-rimmed glasses and blue jeans, a woman who radiates the same vibe as a kindly, eccentric aunt, welcomes anyone who has daring enough spirit...
What makes the tick lady tick?
You'll find millions of ticks in the US National Tick Collection: big ticks, small ticks, even some celebrities. The keeper of all of them is Dr. Lorenza Beati...
How Do Ticks…Tick?
Smithsonian Insider talked to Lorenza Beati, USNTC’s curator, about ticks...
2017 Rickettsia parkeri is an emerging human pathogen transmitted by Amblyomma ticks in predominately tropical and subtropical regions of the western hemisphere. In 2014 and 2015, one confirmed case and one probable case of R. parkeri rickettsiosis were reported from the Pajarita Wilderness Area, a semi-arid mountainous region in southern Arizona. To examine more closely the potential public health risk of R. parkeri in this region, a study was initiated to investigate the pervasiveness of Amblyomma maculatum Koch group ticks in mountainous areas of southern Arizona and to ascertain the infection frequencies of R. parkeri in these ticks. During July 2016, a total of 182 adult ticks were collected and evaluated from the Pajarita Wilderness Area in Santa Cruz County and two additional sites in Cochise and Santa Cruz counties in southern Arizona. DNA of R. parkeri was detected in a total of 44 (24%) of these ticks. DNA of "Candidatus Rickettsia andeanae" and Rickettsia rhipicephali was detected in three (2%) and one (0.5%) of the samples, respectively. These observations corroborate previous collection records and indicate that established populations of A. maculatum group ticks exist in multiple foci in southern Arizona. The high frequency of R. parkeri in these tick populations suggests a public health risk as well as the need to increase education of R. parkeri rickettsiosis for those residing, working in, or visiting this area.
2017 In Europe, hard ticks of the subgenus Pholeoixodes (Ixodidae: Ixodes) are usually associated with burrow-dwelling mammals and terrestrial birds. Reports of Pholeoixodes spp. from carnivores are frequently contradictory, and their identification is not based on key diagnostic characters. Therefore, the aims of the present study were to identify ticks collected from dogs, foxes and badgers in several European countries, and to reassess their systematic status with molecular analyses using two mitochondrial markers.
A passive surveillance program monitored ticks submitted by the public in Iowa from 1990-2013. Submitted ticks were identified to species and life stage, and Ixodes scapularis Say nymphs and adults were tested for the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi. An average of 2.6 of Iowa's 99 counties submitted first reports of I. scapularis per year over the surveillance period, indicating expansion of this tick species across the state. The proportion of vector ticks infected by B. burgdorferi increased over time between 1998 and 2013. In 2013, 23.5% of nymphal and adult I. scapularis were infected with B. burgdorferi, the highest proportion of any year. Active surveillance was performed at selected sites from 2007-2009. Ixodes scapularis nymphs collected at these sites were tested for the presence of B. burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and spotted fever group Rickettsia spp. (likely representing Rickettsia buchneri). Nymphs tested were 17.3% positive for B. burgdorferi, 28.9% for A. phagocytophilum, and 67.3% for Rickettsia spp. The results of these surveillance programs indicate an increasing risk of disease transmission by I. scapularis in Iowa ...
2016 The goal of this work was to combine different lines of evidence besides that of molecular markers to delimit species in ticks when the molecular data are not totally congruent. Two groups (Argentina, Brazil) of South American populations of Amblyomma parvum were compared to test whether the splitting of these two lineages suggested by genetic analyses is complete. Comparative studies of reproductive compatibility, morphological analyses of fixed characters, and comparison of population distributions in spatially defined ecological niches were performed.The morphological comparisons of both discrete and morphometric characters showed no differences among A. parvum ticks from Argentina and Brazil. The intercrosses and backcrosses showed evidence of pre- and post-zygotic compatibility between the two groups. No significant differences in environmental traits were found which would justify the separation of the records of A. parvum in distinct groups. Although the gene flow between the two groups of populations is limited, the absence of reproductive barriers, the lack of significant morphological differences, and the absence of significant differences in the niche preferences indicate that populations of A. parvum from Argentina and Brazil should be treated as a single species. The speciation conjectures suggested by some analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequences were not supported when different lines of evidences were compared.
2015 Ixodes scapularis is the principal vector of Lyme disease on the East Coast and in the upper Midwest regions of the United States, yet the tick is also present in the Southeast, where Lyme disease is absent or rare. A closely related species, I. affinis, also carries the pathogen in the South but does not seem to transmit it to humans. In order to better understand the geographic diversity of the tick, we analyzed the microbiota of 104 adult I. scapularis and 13 adult I. affinis ticks captured in 19 locations in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut, and New York. Initially, ticks from 4 sites were analyzed by 454 pyrosequencing. Subsequently, ticks from these sites plus 15 others were analyzed by sequencing with an Illumina MiSeq machine. By both analyses, the microbiomes of female ticks were significantly less diverse than those of male ticks. The dissimilarity between tick microbiomes increased with distance between sites, and the state in which a tick was collected could be inferred from its microbiota. The genus Rickettsia was prominent in all locations. Borrelia was also present in most locations and was present at especially high levels in one site in western Virginia. In contrast, members of the family Enterobacteriaceae were very common in North Carolina I. scapularis ticks but uncommon in I. scapularis ticks from other sites and in North Carolina I. affinis ticks. These data suggest substantial variations in the Ixodes microbiota in association with geography, species, and sex.
2015 The brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu stricto, is a species with considerable public health and economic importance. However, the taxonomic status of this species is far from resolved. After more than 110 years of scientific work on R. sanguineus s.s., the situation is that there is no type, no solid description, nor is there a consensus about the range of morphological variability within the species. Recent findings based on laboratory crosses and molecular genetics strongly suggest that there are several entities grouped under the same name. Here we review the history of the taxon, and we point out the caveats behind any further work on this tick. The current taxonomic status of R. sanguineus s.s. thus lacks an informative original description, and is based on the existence of several morphological descriptions based on ticks originating from different populations, which show, in some cases, biological incompatibility and significant genetic divergence. We suggests that as a result it is not possible to assign the specific name R. sanguineus s.s. to any population. Further work is required based on the rules issued by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature to clearly define the morphological range of the different populations.
2014 Ticks collected from mustelids from four counties in Maine and one in New Hampshire were identified after harvest. Of the 18 fishers Martes pennanti Erxleben, two mink Neovison vison Schreber, and one long-tailed weasel Mustela frenata Lichtenstein, 589 ticks were collected and identified. They were identified as, in order of abundance, Ixodes gregsoni Lindquist, Wu, and Redner (158 larvae, 189 nymphs, four adults), Ixodes cookei Packard (99 larvae, 77 nymphs, six adults), Ixodes scapularis Say (53 adults), Dermacentor variabilis Say (two nymphs), and Ixodes angustus Neumann (one nymph). Seasonally, all but the D. variabilis were collected in winter. This study reports the first record of adult I. scapularis from a M. pennanti in the northeastern United States.
2014 Birds are capable of carrying ticks and, consequently, tick-transmitted microorganisms over long distances and across geographical barriers such as oceans and deserts. Ticks are hosts for several species of spotted fever group rickettsiae (SFGR), which can be transmitted to vertebrates during blood meals. In this study, the prevalence of this group of rickettsiae was examined in ticks infesting migratory songbirds by using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). During the 2009 and 2010 spring migration season, 2064 northward-migrating passerine songbirds were examined for ticks at Johnson Bayou, Louisiana. A total of 91 ticks was removed from 35 individual songbirds for tick species identification and spotted fever group rickettsia detection. Ticks were identified as Haemaphysalis juxtakochi (n=38, 42%), Amblyomma longirostre (n=22, 24%), Amblyomma nodosum (n=17, 19%), Amblyomma calcaratum (n=11, 12%), Amblyomma maculatum (n=2, 2%), and Haemaphysalis leporispalustris (n=1, 1%) by comparing their 12S rDNA gene sequence to homologous sequences in GenBank. Most of the identified ticks were exotic species originating outside of the United States. The phylogenetic analysis of the 71 ompA gene sequences of the rickettsial strains detected in the ticks revealed the occurrence of 6 distinct rickettsial genotypes. Two genotypes (corresponding to a total of 28 samples) were included in the Candidatus Rickettsia amblyommii clade (less than 1% divergence), 2 of them (corresponding to a total of 14 samples) clustered with Rickettsia sp. "Argentina" with less than 0.2% sequence divergence, and 2 of them (corresponding to a total of 27 samples), although closely related to the R. parkeri-R. africae lineage (2.50-3.41% divergence), exhibited sufficient genetic divergence from its members to possibly constitute a new rickettsial genotype. Overall, there does not seem to be a specific relationship between exotic tick species, the rickettsiae they harbor, or the reservoir competence of the corresponding bird species.
2012 The population genetic structure of Lutzomyia verrucarum (Townsend), a sand fly disease vector of Carrion's disease and cutaneous leishmaniasis in the Peruvian Andes, was characterized by sequencing 653 bp of cytochrome b and 1,125 bp of the NADH dehydrogenase subunit 4 genes of its mitochondrial genome. DNA sequence variation within and between valleys was compared in a sample of 220 sand flies from three valleys (Purisima, Huaylas, and Conchucos) and five departments (Amazonas, Cajamarca, Piura, Lima, and Huancavelica). Gene network and phylogenetic analyses indicated a high similarity of haplotypes collected within a single valley (0-0.52% nucleotide divergence). Flies from each valley had unique genotypes not shared with specimens from other valleys or from more distant regions (0.8-3.1% nucleotide divergence). Mountain ranges and geographic distance appear to have impeded migration (N(m) = < 0.18) between valleys and separated populations into discrete genetic units.