Archives of Microbiology

, Volume 193, Issue 3, pp 223–226 | Cite as

Survival of Francisella tularensis Type A in brackish-water

  • Zenda Lea Berrada
  • Sam R. Telford IIIEmail author
Short Communication


Martha’s Vineyard (MV), Massachusetts has been the location of two outbreaks of pneumonic tularemia; landscaping activities have been associated with risk, suggesting environmental inhalation exposure. We determined whether salinity or other components of brackish-water present in a location with endemic tularemia may prolong survival of F. tularensis. In addition, we demonstrate for the first time that F. tularensis Type A appears similar to Type B with respect to environmental stability. The results of this study suggest an explanation for why MV is the site of pneumonic tularemia transmission as opposed to sites in the southcentral USA, where tularemia is more commonly reported: Bacteria may be more prone to surviving in salt-influenced soil or moisture in the island setting.


Tularemia Environmental stability Microcosm Type A Martha’s Vineyard 



We thank the Vineyard Open Land Foundation for access to study sites. John Varkonda of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation provided valuable logistical support, and many other individuals and agencies of Martha’s Vineyard facilitated our research. This contribution is a part of a dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University (ZLB). Our work is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (R21 AI 053411, RO1 AI 064218, and NO1 AI 30050).


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2002) Tularemia–United States 1990–2000. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 51:181–184Google Scholar
  2. Dahlstrand S, Ringertz O, Zetterberg B (1971) Airborne tularemia in Sweden. Scand J Infect Dis 3:7–16PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Farlow J, Wagner DM, Dukerich M, Stanley M, Chu M, Kubota K, Petersen J, Keim P (2005) Francisella tularensis in the United States. Emerg Infect Dis 11:1835–1841PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Feldman KA, Enscore RE, Lathrop SL, Matyas BT, McGuill M, Schriefer ME, Stiles-Enos D, Dennis DT, Petersen LR, Hayes EB (2001) An outbreak of primary pneumonic tularemia on Martha’s Vineyard. N Engl J Med 345:1601–1606CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Feldman KA, Stiles-Enos D, Julian K, Matyas BT, Telford SR 3rd, Chu MC, Petersen LR, Hayes EB (2003) Tularemia on Martha’s Vineyard: seroprevalence and occupational risk. Emerg Infect Dis 9:350–354PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Fey A, Eichler S, Flavier S, Christen R, Hoefle MG, Guzman CA (2004) Establishment of a real-time PCR-based approach for accurate quantification of bacterial RNA targets in water, using Salmonella as a model organism. Appl Environ Microbiol 70:3618–3623CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Forsman M, Henningson EW, Larsson E, Johansson T, Sandstrom G (2000) Francisella tularensis does not manifest virulence in viable but non-culturable state. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 31:217–224CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Goethert HK, Shani I, Telford SR III (2004) Genotypic diversity of Francisella tularensis infecting Dermacentor variabilis ticks on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. J Clin Microbiol 42:4968–4973CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Gonzalez-Escalona N, Fey A, Hofle MG, Espejo RT, Guzman CA (2006) Quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis of Vibrio cholerae cells entering the viable but non-culturable state and starvation in response to cold shock. Environ Microbiol 8:658–666CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Jellison WL, Kohls GM, Butler WJ, Weaver JA (1942) Epizootic Tularemia in the Beaver, Castor canadensis, and the contamination of stream water with Pasteurella tularensis. Am J Epidemiol 36:168–182Google Scholar
  11. Martha’s Vineyard commission (2009) Water resources and coastal ponds guides. Accessed 28 Nov 2010
  12. Matyas BT, Nieder HS, Telford SR III (2007) Pneumonic tularemia on Martha’s Vineyard: clinical, epidemiologic, and ecological characteristics. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1105:351–377CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Mironchuk I, Mazepa AV (2002) Viability and virulence of Francisella tularensis subsp. Holarctica in water ecosystems (experimental study). Zh Mikrobiol Epidemiol Immunobiol 2:9–13PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Parker RR, Steinhaus EA, Kohls GM, Jellison WL (1951) Contamination of natural waters and mud with Pasteurella tularensis and tularemia in beavers and muskrats in the northwestern United States. Bull Natl Inst Health 193:1–161PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Payne MP, Morton RJ (1992) Effect of culture media and incubation temperature on growth of selected strains of Francisella tularensis. J Vet Diagn Invest 4:264–269PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Pollitzer R (1967) History and incidence of tularemia in the Soviet Union: a reviewGoogle Scholar
  17. Stewart SJ (1996) Tularemia: association with hunting and farming. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 13:197–199CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Syrjala H, Kujala P, Myllyla V, Salminen A (1985) Airborne transmission of tularemia in farmers. Scand J Infect Dis 17:371–375PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Tamura JT, Gibby IW (1943) Cultivation of Bacterium tularense in simplified liquid media. J Bacteriol 45:361–371PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. van Veen JA, van Overbeek LS, van Elsas JD (1997) Fate and activity of microorganisms introduced into soil. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev 61:121–135PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical SciencesTufts Cummings School of Veterinary MedicineNorth GraftonUSA

Personalised recommendations