Migratory birds are known to play a role as long-distance vectors for many microorganisms. To investigate whether this is true of rickettsial agents as well, we characterized tick infestation and gathered ticks from 13,260 migratory passerine birds in Sweden. A total of 1127 Ixodes spp. ticks were removed from these birds and the extracted DNA from 957 of them was available for analyses. The DNA was assayed for detection of Rickettsia spp. using real-time PCR, followed by DNA sequencing for species identification. Rickettsia spp. organisms were detected in 108 (11.3%) of the ticks. Rickettsia helvetica, a spotted fever rickettsia associated with human infections, was predominant among the PCR-positive samples. In 9 (0.8%) of the ticks, the partial sequences of 17kDa and ompB genes showed the greatest similarity to Rickettsia monacensis, an etiologic agent of Mediterranean spotted fever-like illness, previously described in southern Europe as well as to the Rickettsia sp.IrITA3 strain. For 15 (1.4%) of the ticks, the 17kDa, ompB, gltA and ompA genes showed the greatest similarity to Rickettsia sp. strain Davousti, Rickettsia japonica and Rickettsia heilongjiangensis, all closely phylogenetically related, the former previously found in Amblyomma tholloni ticks in Africa and previously not detected in Ixodes spp. ticks. The infestation prevalence of ticks infected with rickettsial organisms was four times higher among ground foraging birds than among other bird species, but the two groups were equally competent in transmitting Rickettsia species. The birds did not seem to serve as reservoir hosts for Rickettsia spp., but in one case it seems likely that the bird was rickettsiemic and that the ticks had acquired the bacteria from the blood of the bird. In conclusion, migratory passerine birds host epidemiologically important vector ticks and Rickettsia species and contribute to the geographic distribution of spotted fever rickettsial agents and their diseases.
Rickettsioses are caused by pathogenic species of the genus Rickettsia and play an important role as emerging diseases. The bacteria are transmitted to mammal hosts including humans by arthropod vectors. Since detection, especially in tick vectors, is usually based on PCR with genus-specific primers to include different occurring Rickettsia species, subsequent species identification is mainly achieved by Sanger sequencing. In the present study a real-time pyrosequencing approach was established with the objective to differentiate between species occurring in German Ixodes ticks, which are R. helvetica, R. monacensis, R. massiliae, and R. felis. Tick material from a quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) based study on Rickettsia-infections in I. ricinus allowed direct comparison of both sequencing techniques, Sanger and real-time pyrosequencing.
A sequence stretch of rickettsial citrate synthase (gltA) gene was identified to contain divergent single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) sites suitable for Rickettsia species differentiation. Positive control plasmids inserting the respective target sequence of each Rickettsia species of interest were constructed for initial establishment of the real-time pyrosequencing approach using Qiagen’s PSQ 96MA Pyrosequencing System operating in a 96-well format. The approach included an initial amplification reaction followed by the actual pyrosequencing, which is traceable by pyrograms in real-time. Afterwards, real-time pyrosequencing was applied to 263 Ixodes tick samples already detected Rickettsia-positive in previous qPCR experiments.
Establishment of real-time pyrosequencing using positive control plasmids resulted in accurate detection of all SNPs in all included Rickettsia species. The method was then applied to 263 Rickettsia-positive Ixodes ricinus samples, of which 153 (58.2%) could be identified for their species (151 R. helvetica and 2 R. monacensis) by previous custom Sanger sequencing. Real-time pyrosequencing identified all Sanger-determined ticks as well as 35 previously undifferentiated ticks resulting in a total number of 188 (71.5%) identified samples. Pyrosequencing sensitivity was found to be strongly dependent on gltA copy numbers in the reaction setup. Whereas less than 101 copies in the initial amplification reaction resulted in identification of 15.1% of the samples only, the percentage increased to 54.2% at 101-102 copies, to 95.6% at >102-103 copies and reached 100% samples identified for their Rickettsia species if more than 103 copies were present in the template.
The established real-time pyrosequencing approach represents a reliable method for detection and differentiation of Rickettsia spp. present in I. ricinus diagnostic material and prevalence studies. Furthermore, the method proved to be faster, more cost-effective as well as more sensitive than custom Sanger sequencing with simultaneous high specificity.
Rickettsia helvetica; Rickettsia monacensis; Rickettsia massiliae; Rickettsia felis; Ixodes ricinus; Diagnostic; Sequencing
Tick-borne diseases are a major health risk for humans and dogs. In addition to collection and analysis of questing ticks, analysis of host-associated ticks for the presence of pathogens is a valuable method to gain insight into transmission patterns of tick-borne diseases.
Ticks were collected from dogs living in the Berlin/Brandenburg area. The three tick species Ixodes ricinus, Ixodes hexagonus and Dermacentor reticulatus were examined for the presence of Babesia spp., Borrelia spp., Rickettsia spp. and Anaplasmataceae. Conventional PCR followed by sequencing was used for pathogen detection and characterization.
Babesia spp. were found in 2.5% and 3% of I. ricinus and I. hexagonus, respectively. Sequencing revealed the presence of Babesia microti, Babesia capreoli and Babesia venatorum. D. reticulatus were free of Babesia canis. Rickettsia spp. were detected in 61% of I. ricinus, 44% of I. hexagonus and 39% of D. reticulatus. Specifically detected were Rickettsia raoulti in D. reticulatus and I. hexagonus, Rickettsia helvetica in I. ricinus and I. hexagonus and Rickettsia monacensis in I. hexagonus. Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis have been reported previously in I. ricinus (6.5% and 4.3%, respectively) and I. hexagonus (3.9% and 5.9%). Borrelia spp. were found in 11.6% of I. ricinus and 11.2% of I. hexagonus. Subsequent genospecies analysis revealed Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto and Borrelia miyamotoi. Simultanous presence of more than one pathogen was found in 20% of I. ricinus and in 59% of I. hexagonus whereas the total frequency of any pathogen was 65% in I. ricinus, 59% in I. hexagonus and 64% in D. reticulatus. Ticks in which A. phagocytophilum was detected had a significantly increased risk of also containing Rickettsia. Ticks harbouring a pathogen had significantly higher scutal indices than ticks without presence of any pathogen.
Frequencies of potential human or canine pathogens in ticks were considerable and DNA of all four groups of pathogens was detected. Differences in scutal indices might suggest that pathogens are frequently taken up by ticks when feeding on dogs in Berlin/Brandenburg.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-014-0535-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Canine vector-borne diseases; Borrelia; Babesia; Rickettsia; Anaplasma; Candidatus neoehrlichia mikurensis
Hard ticks have been identified as important vectors of rickettsiae causing the spotted fever syndrome. Tick-borne rickettsiae are considered to be emerging, but only limited data are available about their presence in Western Europe, their natural life cycle and their reservoir hosts. Ixodes ricinus, the most prevalent tick species, were collected and tested from different vegetation types and from potential reservoir hosts. In one biotope area, the annual and seasonal variability of rickettsiae infections of the different tick stages were determined for 9 years.
The DNA of the human pathogen R. conorii as well as R. helvetica, R. sp. IRS and R. bellii-like were found. Unexpectedly, the DNA of the highly pathogenic R. typhi and R. prowazekii and 4 other uncharacterized Rickettsia spp. related to the typhus group were also detected in I. ricinus. The presence of R. helvetica in fleas isolated from small rodents supported our hypothesis that cross-infection can occur under natural conditions, since R. typhi/prowazekii and R. helvetica as well as their vectors share rodents as reservoir hosts. In one biotope, the infection rate with R. helvetica was ~66% for 9 years, and was comparable between larvae, nymphs, and adults. Larvae caught by flagging generally have not yet taken a blood meal from a vertebrate host. The simplest explanation for the comparable prevalence of R. helvetica between the defined tick stages is, that R. helvetica is vertically transmitted through the next generation with high efficiency. The DNA of R. helvetica was also present in whole blood from mice, deer and wild boar.
Besides R. helvetica, unexpected rickettsiae are found in I. ricinus ticks. We propose that I. ricinus is a major reservoir host for R. helvetica, and that vertebrate hosts play important roles in the further geographical dispersion of rickettsiae.
Tick-transmitted rickettsial diseases, such as ehrlichiosis and spotted fever rickettsiosis, are significant sources of morbidity and mortality in the southern United States. Because of their exposure in tick-infested woodlands, outdoor workers experience an increased risk of infection with tick-borne pathogens. As part of a double blind randomized-controlled field trial of the effectiveness of permethrin-treated clothing in preventing tick bites, we identified tick species removed from the skin of outdoor workers in North Carolina and tested the ticks for Rickettsiales pathogens.
Ticks submitted by study participants from April-September 2011 and 2012 were identified to species and life stage, and preliminarily screened for the genus Rickettsia by nested PCR targeting the 17-kDa protein gene. Rickettsia were further identified to species by PCR amplification of 23S-5S intergenic spacer (IGS) fragments combined with reverse line blot hybridization with species-specific probes and through cloning and nucleotide sequence analysis of 23S-5S amplicons. Ticks were examined for Ehrlichia and Anaplasma by nested PCR directed at the gltA, antigen-expressing gene containing a variable number of tandem repeats, 16S rRNA, and groESL genes.
The lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) accounted for 95.0 and 92.9% of ticks submitted in 2011 (n = 423) and 2012 (n = 451), respectively. Specimens of American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum) and black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) were also identified. In both years of our study, 60.9% of ticks tested positive for 17-kDa. “Candidatus Rickettsia amblyommii”, identified in all four tick species, accounted for 90.2% (416/461) of the 23S-5S-positive samples and 52.9% (416/787) of all samples tested. Nucleotide sequence analysis of Rickettsia-specific 23S-5S IGS, ompA and gltA gene fragments indicated that ticks, principally A. americanum, contained novel species of Rickettsia. Other Rickettsiales, including Ehrlichia ewingii, E. chaffeensis, Ehrlichia sp. (Panola Mountain), and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, were infrequently identified, principally in A. americanum.
We conclude that in North Carolina, the most common rickettsial exposure is to R. amblyommii carried by A. americanum. Other Rickettsiales bacteria, including novel species of Rickettsia, were less frequently detected in A. americanum but are relevant to public health nevertheless.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-014-0607-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Ticks; Rickettsiales pathogens; Rickettsia; Ehrlichia; Reverse line blot hybridization
Tick-borne Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Rickettsia spp. are considered to be emerging human pathogens, but only limited data are available on their occurrence in Sweden. Two real-time PCR assays followed by nested PCR and sequence analysis were carried out to investigate the prevalence of A. phagocytophilum and spotted fever rickettsiae in ticks from seven areas in Sweden.
In 139 pooled samples, representing a total of 1245 Ixodes ricinus ticks (204 larvae, 963 nymphs, 38 males, 40 females), the overall positive mean infection prevalence was 1.3-15.0% for A. phagocytophilum and 1.5-17.3% for R. helvetica. A. phagocytophilum was only detected in nymphs (1.7-19.4%), whereas R. helvetica was detected in all three tick stages. Support for vertical and transstadial transmission was only obtained for R. helvetica. Both agents showed similar infection rates across study areas, although infection rates were greater in coastal areas.
The results show that both pathogens occurred in all seven locations, indicating that they are prevalent in Sweden and should be considered etiological agents in patients recently bitten by ticks.
Ixodes ricinus, a competent vector of several pathogens, is the tick species most frequently reported to bite humans in Europe. The majority of human cases of Lyme borreliosis (LB) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) occur in the north-eastern region of Italy. The aims of this study were to detect the occurrence of endemic and emergent pathogens in north-eastern Italy using adult tick screening, and to identify areas at risk of pathogen transmission. Based on our results, different strategies for tick collection and pathogen screening and their relative costs were evaluated and discussed.
From 2006 to 2008 adult ticks were collected in 31 sites and molecularly screened for the detection of pathogens previously reported in the same area (i.e., LB agents, TBE virus, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., "Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis"). Based on the results of this survey, three sampling strategies were evaluated a-posteriori, and the impact of each strategy on the final results and the overall cost reductions were analyzed. The strategies were as follows: tick collection throughout the year and testing of female ticks only (strategy A); collection from April to June and testing of all adult ticks (strategy B); collection from April to June and testing of female ticks only (strategy C).
Eleven pathogens were detected in 77 out of 193 ticks collected in 14 sites. The most common microorganisms detected were Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (17.6%), Rickettsia helvetica (13.1%), and "Ca. N. mikurensis" (10.5%). Within the B. burgdorferi complex, four genotypes (i.e., B. valaisiana, B. garinii, B. afzelii, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto) were found. Less prevalent pathogens included R. monacensis (3.7%), TBE virus (2.1%), A. phagocytophilum (1.5%), Bartonella spp. (1%), and Babesia EU1 (0.5%). Co-infections by more than one pathogen were diagnosed in 22% of infected ticks. The prevalences of infection assessed using the three alternative strategies were in accordance with the initial results, with 13, 11, and 10 out of 14 sites showing occurrence of at least one pathogen, respectively. The strategies A, B, and C proposed herein would allow to reduce the original costs of sampling and laboratory analyses by one third, half, and two thirds, respectively. Strategy B was demonstrated to represent the most cost-effective choice, offering a substantial reduction of costs, as well as reliable results.
Monitoring of tick-borne diseases is expensive, particularly in areas where several zoonotic pathogens co-occur. Cost-effectiveness studies can support the choice of the best monitoring strategy, which should take into account the ecology of the area under investigation, as well as the available budget.
Ixodes ricinus; tick-borne diseases; surveillance; economic evaluation; Italy.
Lyme borreliosis is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in Europe. Ixodes ricinus also carries other pathogenic bacteria, but corresponding human diseases are rarely reported. Here, we compared the exposure to Rickettsia helvetica and Rickettsia monacensis with that to Lyme borreliosis spirochetes. We assumed that their exposure corresponds to their infection rate in questing I. ricinus.
Three Rickettsia species were detected in ticks with a total prevalence of 7.9%, of which the majority was R. helvetica (78%) and R. monacensis (21%). From the same geographic area, skin biopsies of erythema migrans patients were investigated for possible co-infections with Rickettsia spp.. Forty-seven out of 67 skin biopsies were PCR positive for Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. and one sample was positive for R. monacensis. The Borrelia genospecies from the R. monacensis positive patient was identified as Borrelia afzelii. The patient did not show any symptoms associated with rickettsiosis.
Co-infections of I. ricinus with Rickettsia spp. and B. burgdorferi s.l. were as high as expected from the individual prevalence of both pathogens. Co-infection rate in erythema migrans patients corresponded well with tick infection rates. To our knowledge, this is the first reported co-infection of B. afzelii and R. monacensis.
Borrelia burgdorferi; Rickettsia monacensis; Rickettsia helvetica; Erythema migrans; Co-infection
Ticks harbor numerous pathogens of significance to human and animal health. A better understanding of the pathogens carried by ticks in a given geographic area can alert health care providers of specific health risks leading to better diagnosis and treatments. In this study, we tested 226 Ixodes ricinis ticks from Southern Germany using a broad-range PCR and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry assay (PCR/ESI-MS) designed to identify tick-borne bacterial and protozoan pathogens in a single test. We found 21.2% of the ticks tested carried Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato consisting of diverse genospecies; a surprisingly high percentage of ticks were infected with Babesia microti (3.5%). Other organisms found included Borrelia miyamotoi, Rickettsia helvetica, Rickettsia monacensis, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Of further significance was our finding that more than 7% of ticks were infected with more than one pathogen or putative pathogen.
Lyme borreliosis; Borrelia; Babesia microti; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Rickettsia helvetica.
Spotted Fever Group (SFG) Rickettsiae can cause febrile diseases with or without rash in humans worldwide. In Germany only limited data are available about their medical significance. Serological screening tests for antibodies against rickettsiae usually only distinguish between SFG and Typhus Group (TG) Rickettsiae due to the strong cross reactivities within the groups. Seroprevalence rates in dogs, as possible sentinels for tick-borne diseases, could serve as an indicator for the distribution of different Rickettsia species.
In this study, a micro-immunofluorescence assay (micro-IFA) was established for detection and differentiation of antibodies against five Rickettsia species in dogs (R. helvetica, R. raoultii, R. slovaca, R. monacensis and R. felis). Dogs that never left Germany (n = 605) previously investigated with an SFG-ELISA were included in this study and screened at a 1:128 dilution. Endpoint titres of fifty randomly selected seropositive samples of each of the five investigated regions in Germany were determined in order to allow a differentiation of the causative Rickettsia species. Sensitivity and specificity of the micro-IFA were compared with ELISA results of the previous study.
A total of 93.9% of the dogs were positive for antibodies of the SFG Rickettsiae at the screening titer of 1:128. Differentiation of SFG Rickettsiae with the micro-IFA was possible in 70.4%, but in 29.6% of the cases the detected antibodies were not differentiable. Considering a clear differentiation by a twofold titre difference between observed reactions, the seroprevalence rates were 66.0% for R. helvetica, 2.8% for R. raoultii, 1.6% for R. slovaca, but no serological reaction could be clearly attributed to R. monacensis or R. felis. No statistically significant regional differences were found for R. helvetica, R. slovaca and R. raoultii comparing the five regions of Germany. Comparison of micro-IFA with ELISA revealed a sensitivity of 82.0% and a specificity of 83.8% for the Rickettsia SFG ELISA.
The micro-IFA is a useful serological tool to differentiate antibodies against different Rickettsia species in dogs. Seroprevalence rates in dogs correspond to the prevalence rates and distribution of Rickettsia-carrying tick species.
Rickettsia helvetica; R. raoultii; R. slovaca; R. monacensis; R. felis; Seroprevalence; Differentiation; Dogs; Ticks
Tick-borne diseases represent major public and animal health issues worldwide. Ixodes ricinus, primarily associated with deciduous and mixed forests, is the principal vector of causative agents of viral, bacterial, and protozoan zoonotic diseases in Europe. Recently, abundant tick populations have been observed in European urban green areas, which are of public health relevance due to the exposure of humans and domesticated animals to potentially infected ticks. In urban habitats, small and medium-sized mammals, birds, companion animals (dogs and cats), and larger mammals (roe deer and wild boar) play a role in maintenance of tick populations and as reservoirs of tick-borne pathogens. Presence of ticks infected with tick-borne encephalitis virus and high prevalence of ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., causing Lyme borreliosis, have been reported from urbanized areas in Europe. Emerging pathogens, including bacteria of the order Rickettsiales (Anaplasma phagocytophilum, “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” Rickettsia helvetica, and R. monacensis), Borrelia miyamotoi, and protozoans (Babesia divergens, B. venatorum, and B. microti) have also been detected in urban tick populations. Understanding the ecology of ticks and their associations with hosts in a European urbanized environment is crucial to quantify parameters necessary for risk pre-assessment and identification of public health strategies for control and prevention of tick-borne diseases.
ticks; Ixodes ricinus; tick-borne pathogens; urban habitats; Europe
A total of 167 ticks collected from humans in Istanbul (Turkey) in 2006 were screened for Rickettsia species, and nested PCRs targeting gltA and ompA rickettsial fragment genes were carried out. Rickettsia monacensis (51), R. aeschlimannii (8), R. conorii subsp. conorii (3), R. helvetica (2), R. raoultii (1), R. africae (1), R. felis (1), and other Rickettsia spp. (2), were detected. To our knowledge, these Rickettsia species (except R. conorii) had never been reported in ticks removed from humans in Turkey. The presence of R. africae also had not been previously described, either in Hyalomma ticks or in any European tick species. In addition, R. aeschlimannii and R. felis had not been found associated with Rhipicephalus bursa specimens. The presence of human pathogenic Rickettsia in ticks removed from humans provides information about the risk of tick-borne rickettsioses in Turkey.
Rickettsia species; Turkey; Ticks from humans.
Birds have long been known as carriers of ticks, but data from the literature are lacking on their role as a reservoir in the epidemiology of certain tick-borne disease-causing agents. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the presence of three emerging, zoonotic tick-borne pathogens in blood samples and ticks of birds and to assess the impact of feeding location preference and migration distance of bird species on their tick infestation.
Blood samples and ticks of birds were analysed with TaqMan real-time PCRs and conventional PCR followed by sequencing.
During the spring and autumn bird migrations, 128 blood samples and 140 ticks (Ixodes ricinus, Haemaphysalis concinna and a Hyalomma specimen) were collected from birds belonging to 16 species. The prevalence of tick infestation and the presence of tick species were related to the feeding and migration habits of avian hosts. Birds were shown to be bacteraemic with Rickettsia helvetica and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, but not with Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis. The prevalence of rickettsiae was high (51.4%) in ticks, suggesting that some of them may have acquired their infection from their avian host.
Based on the present results birds are potential reservoirs of both I. ricinus transmitted zoonotic pathogens, R. helvetica and A. phagocytophilum, but their epidemiological role appears to be less important concerning the latter, at least in Central Europe.
Ground feeding birds; Migratory birds; Ticks; Rickettsia helvetica; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis
Awareness for flea- and tick-borne infections has grown in recent years and the range of microorganisms associated with these ectoparasites is rising. Bartonella henselae, the causative agent of Cat Scratch Disease, and other Bartonella species have been reported in fleas and ticks. The role of Ixodes ricinus ticks in the natural cycle of Bartonella spp. and the transmission of these bacteria to humans is unclear. Rickettsia spp. have also been reported from as well ticks as also from fleas. However, to date no flea-borne Rickettsia spp. were reported from the Netherlands. Here, the presence of Bartonellaceae and Rickettsiae in ectoparasites was investigated using molecular detection and identification on part of the gltA- and 16S rRNA-genes.
The zoonotic Bartonella clarridgeiae and Rickettsia felis were detected for the first time in Dutch cat fleas. B. henselae was found in cat fleas and B. schoenbuchensis in ticks and keds feeding on deer. Two Bartonella species, previously identified in rodents, were found in wild mice and their fleas. However, none of these microorganisms were found in 1719 questing Ixodes ricinus ticks. Notably, the gltA gene amplified from DNA lysates of approximately 10% of the questing nymph and adult ticks was similar to that of an uncultured Bartonella-related species found in other hard tick species. The gltA gene of this Bartonella-related species was also detected in questing larvae for which a 16S rRNA gene PCR also tested positive for "Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii". The gltA-gene of the Bartonella-related species found in I. ricinus may therefore be from this endosymbiont.
We conclude that the risk of acquiring Cat Scratch Disease or a related bartonellosis from questing ticks in the Netherlands is negligible. On the other hand fleas and deer keds are probable vectors for associated Bartonella species between animals and might also transmit Bartonella spp. to humans.
A few billion birds migrate annually between their breeding grounds in Europe and their wintering grounds in Africa. Many bird species are tick-infested, and as a result of their innate migratory behavior, they contribute significantly to the geographic distribution of pathogens, including spotted fever rickettsiae. The aim of the present study was to characterize, in samples from two consecutive years, the potential role of migrant birds captured in Europe as disseminators of Rickettsia-infected ticks.
Ticks were collected from a total of 14,789 birds during their seasonal migration northwards in spring 2009 and 2010 at bird observatories on two Mediterranean islands: Capri and Antikythira. All ticks were subjected to RNA extraction followed by cDNA synthesis and individually assayed with a real-time PCR targeting the citrate synthase (gltA) gene. For species identification of Rickettsia, multiple genes were sequenced.
Three hundred and ninety-eight (2.7%) of all captured birds were tick-infested; some birds carried more than one tick. A total number of 734 ticks were analysed of which 353 ± 1 (48%) were Rickettsia-positive; 96% were infected with Rickettsia aeschlimannii and 4% with Rickettsia africae or unidentified Rickettsia species. The predominant tick taxon, Hyalomma marginatum sensu lato constituted 90% (n = 658) of the ticks collected. The remaining ticks were Ixodes frontalis, Amblyomma sp., Haemaphysalis sp., Rhipicephalus sp. and unidentified ixodids. Most ticks were nymphs (66%) followed by larvae (27%) and adult female ticks (0.5%). The majority (65%) of ticks was engorged and nearly all ticks contained visible blood.
Migratory birds appear to have a great impact on the dissemination of Rickettsia-infected ticks, some of which may originate from distant locations. The potential ecological, medical and veterinary implications of such Rickettsia infections need further examination.
Migratory birds; Spotted fever Rickettsia; Rickettsia aeschlimannii; Rickettsia africae; Transmission; Tick; Hyalomma marginatum; Hyalomma rufipes; Ixodes frontalis
Only limited information is available about the occurrence of ticks and tick-borne pathogens in public parks, which are areas strongly influenced by human beings. For this reason, Ixodes ricinus were collected in public parks of different Bavarian cities in a 2-year survey (2009 and 2010) and screened for DNA of Babesia spp., Rickettsia spp. and Bartonella spp. by PCR. Species identification was performed by sequence analysis and alignment with existing sequences in GenBank. Additionally, coinfections with Anaplasma phagocytophilum were investigated.
The following prevalences were detected: Babesia spp.: 0.4% (n = 17, including one pool of two larvae) in 2009 and 0.5 to 0.7% (n = 11, including one pool of five larvae) in 2010; Rickettsia spp.: 6.4 to 7.7% (n = 285, including 16 pools of 76 larvae) in 2009. DNA of Bartonella spp. in I. ricinus in Bavarian public parks could not be identified. Sequence analysis revealed the following species: Babesia sp. EU1 (n = 25), B. divergens (n = 1), B. divergens/capreoli (n = 1), B. gibsoni-like (n = 1), R. helvetica (n = 272), R. monacensis IrR/Munich (n = 12) and unspecified R. monacensis (n = 1). The majority of coinfections were R. helvetica with A. phagocytophilum (n = 27), but coinfections between Babesia spp. and A. phagocytophilum, or Babesia spp. and R. helvetica were also detected.
I. ricinus ticks in urban areas of Germany harbor several tick-borne pathogens and coinfections were also observed. Public parks are of particularly great interest regarding the epidemiology of tick-borne pathogens, because of differences in both the prevalence of pathogens in ticks as well as a varying species arrangement when compared to woodland areas. The record of DNA of a Babesia gibsoni-like pathogen detected in I. ricinus suggests that I. ricinus may harbor and transmit more Babesia spp. than previously known. Because of their high recreational value for human beings, urban green areas are likely to remain in the research focus on public health issues.
In the present study further characterization of the amplified sequence of the citrate synthase gene of the spotted fever group Rickettsia isolated from Ixodes ricinus ticks in Sweden showed that it has 100% homology with the deposited sequence of the citrate synthase gene of Rickettsia helvetica. The restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) pattern of an amplified 382-bp product of the citrate synthase sequence, defined by primers RpCS877 and RpCS1258, yielded fragments for our isolate that could be visualized as a double band that migrated at approximately 44 bp, another double band at 85 bp, and a single band at nearly 120 bp after digestion with the restriction enzyme AluI. When calculating a theoretical PCR-RFLP pattern of the sequence of the citrate synthase gene of R. helvetica from the known positions where the AluI enzyme cuts, we arrived at the same pattern that was obtained for our isolate, a pattern distinctly different from the previously published PCR-RFLP pattern for R. helvetica. Investigation of 125 living I. ricinus ticks showed a higher prevalence of rickettsial DNA in these ticks than we had found in an earlier study. Rickettsial DNA was detected by amplification of the 16S rRNA gene, for which a seminested primer system consisting of two oligonucleotide primer pairs was used. Of the 125 ticks, some were pooled, giving a total of 82 tick samples, of which 20 were found to be positive for the rickettsial DNA gene investigated. When considering the fact that some of the positive samples were pooled, the minimum possible prevalence in these ticks was 20 of 125 (16%) and the maximum possible prevalence was 46 of 125 (36.8%). These prevalence estimates conform to those of other studies of spotted fever group rickettsiae in hard ticks in Europe.
The importance of tick-borne diseases is increasing all over the world, including Turkey. The tick-borne disease outbreaks reported in recent years and the abundance of tick species and the existence of suitable habitats increase the importance of studies related to the epidemiology of ticks and tick-borne pathogens in Turkey. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of and to determine the infection rates of some tick-borne pathogens, including Babesia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and spotted fever group rickettsiae in the ticks removed from humans in different parts of Ankara.
A total of 169 ticks belonging to the genus Haemaphysalis, Hyalomma, Ixodes and Rhipicephalus were collected by removing from humans in different parts of Ankara. Ticks were molecularly screened for Babesia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and spotted fever group rickettsiae by PCR and sequencing analysis. We detected 4 Babesia spp.; B. crassa, B. major, B. occultans and B. rossi, one Borrelia spp.; B. burgdorferi sensu stricto and 3 spotted fever group rickettsiae; R. aeschlimannii, R. slovaca and R. hoogstraalii in the tick specimens analyzed. This is the report showing the presence of B. rossi in a region that is out of Africa and in the host species Ha. parva. In addition, B. crassa, for which limited information is available on its distribution and vector species, and B. occultans, for which no conclusive information is available on its presence in Turkey, were identified in Ha. parva and H. marginatum, respectively. Two human pathogenic rickettsia species (R. aeschlimannii and R. slovaca) were detected with a high prevalence in ticks. Additionally, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto was detected in unusual tick species (H. marginatum, H. excavatum, Hyalomma spp. (nymph) and Ha. parva).
This study investigates both the distribution of several tick-borne pathogens affecting humans and animals, and the presence of new tick-borne pathogens in Turkey. More epidemiological studies are warranted for B. rossi, which is very pathogenic for dogs, because the presented results suggest that B. rossi might have a wide distribution in Turkey. Furthermore, we recommend that tick-borne pathogens, especially R. aeschlimannii, R. slovaca, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, should be taken into consideration in patients who had a tick bite in Turkey.
Ticks are widespread in over all Turkey. Primary tick-borne diseases (TBDs), such as theileriosis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis, affecting animals have been known for a long time in Turkey. However, TBDs have become a major concern in humans in recent years due to the recent Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever outbreak in Turkey. We know that some TBDs like CCHF, Lyme borreliosis, spotted fever group rickettsiosis, babesiosis and anaplasmosis exist in this geography. However, the other diseases except for CCHF are neglected in patients. In this study, we aimed to investigate Babesia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and spotted fever group rickettsiae in ticks removed from humans in different parts of Ankara by using PCR and sequencing. The result of this study showed that 4 Babesia species, one B. burgdorferi sensu lato, and 3 spotted fever group rickettsia are detected in ticks. The most striking result of this study is that B. rossi, which is very pathogenic for dogs, was reported for the first time from a region that is out of Africa and in Ha. parva. Therefore, B. rossi should be considered in dogs in Turkey. Furthermore, we propose that R. aeschlimannii, R. slovaca, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto should be taken into consideration in patients who had a tick bite in Ankara.
A spotted fever group rickettsia isolated from the common tick, Ixodes ricinus, was genetically characterized by PCR and genomic sequencing. This study was performed with nymphal and adult ticks collected in southern and central Sweden. I. ricinus is the only North European tick species of medical importance which is regularly collected from humans. No species of the genus Rickettsia has previously been found in Scandinavian ticks, nor has any case of domestic rickettsial infection in humans or animals been reported. According to the nucleotide sequencing, the present Rickettsia sp. belongs to the spotted fever group of rickettsiae. Ticks are the most common arthropod reservoirs and vectors of the rickettsiae of this group. Among 748 ticks investigated, 13 (1.7%) were positive for a Rickettsia sp. Borrelia burgdorferi was detected in 52 (7%) of the ticks, a prevalence similar to or somewhat lower than that previously been recorded in other Swedish studies. There was no evidence of ehrlichial or chlamydial DNA in these ticks. The Rickettsia sp. was further characterized by 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequencing and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). The 16S rDNA sequencing resulted in a sequence identical to that described for Rickettsia helvetica, but the pattern obtained with RFLP of the citrate synthetase gene diverged from previously known patterns. The rickettsial agent of one tick which was positive by PCR was confirmed by transmission electron microscopy. The morphology of this rickettsia was similar to that of the spotted fever and typhus group rickettsiae. This represents the first documented isolate of a Rickettsia sp. from Swedish ticks.
Although Ixodes spp. are the most common ticks in North-Western Europe, recent reports indicated an expanding geographical distribution of Dermacentor reticulatus in Western Europe. Recently, the establishment of a D. reticulatus population in Belgium was described. D. reticulatus is an important vector of canine and equine babesiosis and can transmit several Rickettsia species, Coxiella burnetii and tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), whilst Ixodes spp. are vectors of pathogens causing babesiosis, borreliosis, anaplasmosis, rickettsiosis and TBEV.
A survey was conducted in 2008-2009 to investigate the presence of different tick species and associated pathogens on dogs and cats in Belgium. Ticks were collected from dogs and cats in 75 veterinary practices, selected by stratified randomization. All collected ticks were morphologically determined and analysed for the presence of Babesia spp., Borrelia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Rickettsia DNA.
In total 2373 ticks were collected from 647 dogs and 506 cats. Ixodes ricinus (76.4%) and I. hexagonus (22.6%) were the predominant species. Rhipicephalus sanguineus (0.3%) and D. reticulatus (0.8%) were found in low numbers on dogs only. All dogs infested with R. sanguineus had a recent travel history, but D. reticulatus were collected from a dog without a history of travelling abroad. Of the collected Ixodes ticks, 19.5% were positive for A. phagocytophilum and 10.1% for Borrelia spp. (B. afzelii, B. garinii, B. burgdorferi s.s., B. lusitaniae, B. valaisiana and B. spielmanii). Rickettsia helvetica was found in 14.1% of Ixodes ticks. All Dermacentor ticks were negative for all the investigated pathogens, but one R. sanguineus tick was positive for Rickettsia massiliae.
D. reticulatus was confirmed to be present as an indigenous parasite in Belgium. B. lusitaniae and R. helvetica were detected in ticks in Belgium for the first time.
Ticks; Dermacentor reticulatus; Dogs; Cats; Belgium; Borrelia; Anaplasma; Rickettsia
Newly recognized endemic foci for human babesiosis include Europe, where Ixodes ricinus, a vector for several species of Babesia, is the most commonly identified tick. Vector-based surveillance provides an early warning system for the emergence of human babesiosis, which is likely to be under-reported at emerging sites. In the present study, we set out to screen I. ricinus collected from Danish domestic dogs for Babesia, in order to identify whether humans in Denmark are exposed to the parasite.
A total of 661 ticks (Ixodes spp.) were collected from 345 Danish domestic dogs during April-September 2011 and pooled, one sample per dog. DNA was extracted from each sample and examined by PCR and sequencing for Rickettsia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Bartonella spp., Francisella tularensis, Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, and Babesia spp. In total, 34% of the samples were positive for tick-borne microorganisms potentially pathogenic to humans: Rickettsia spp. were detected in 16% of the pools, with 79% being R. helvetica. Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was found in 15%, with the main species identified as Borrelia afzelii (39%). Likewise, 8% of the samples were positive for Babesia spp. (Babesia microti, 82%; Babesia venatorum (‘EU1’), 18%). Lastly, 1% of the samples tested positive for Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, and 0.6% for Bartonella spp. No ticks were found to be infected with Francisella tularensis.
Our data are in support of endemic occurrence of potentially zoonotic Babesia in Denmark and confirms I. ricinus as a vector of multiple pathogens of public health concern.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-015-0843-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Zoonosis; Denmark; Parasite; Bacteria; Parasite-vector; Vector-borne; Companion animal; Tick; Fever; Diagnosis
Spotted fever group (SFG) rickettsiae have recently been identified for the first time in UK ticks. This included the findings of Rickettsia helvetica in Ixodes ricinus and Rickettsia raoultii in Dermacentor reticulatus. This paper further investigates the occurrence of SFG rickettsiae in additional geographically distinct populations of D. reticulatus, and for the first time, investigates the occurrence of SFG rickettsiae in UK populations of Haemaphysalis punctata ticks.
Questing D. reticulatus and H. punctata were collected at a number of sites in England and Wales. DNA from questing ticks was extracted by alkaline lysis and detection of rickettsiae DNA was performed, in addition to detection of A. phagocytophilum, N. mikurensis, C. burnetii and B. burgdorferi sensu lato.
This paper builds on previous findings to include the detection of spotted fever Rickettsia which showed the highest homology to Rickettsia massiliae in Haemaphysalis punctata, as well as R. helvetica in D. reticulatus. The occurrence of SFG rickettsiae in D. reticulatus in the UK appears to be confined only to Welsh and Essex populations, with no evidence so far from Devon. Similarly, the occurrence of SFG rickettsiae in H. punctata appears confined to one of two farms known to be infested with this tick in North Kent, with no evidence so far from the Sussex populations. Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Coxiella burnetii and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato DNA was not detected in any of the ticks.
These two tick species are highly restricted in their distribution in England and Wales, but where they do occur they can be abundant. Following detection of these SFG rickettsiae in additional UK tick species, as well as I. ricinus, research should now be directed towards clarifying firstly the geographic distribution of SFG rickettsiae in UK ticks, and secondly to assess the prevalence rates in ticks, wild and domesticated animals and humans to identify the drivers for disease transmission and their public health significance.
Haemaphysalis; Rickettsia massiliae; UK; Dermacentor; Rickettsiae; Ticks
Rickettsia helvetica, a spotted fever rickettsia and emerging pathogen with Ixodes ricinus ticks as the main vector, is an agent of human disease and may cause febrile illness as well as meningitis. In three parallel series the isolated standard type of R. helvetica, obtained from a PCR-positive I. ricinus tick, was high-passaged and propagated in a Vero cell line. By using quantitative real-time PCR, the generation time from inoculation to stationary phase of growth was calculated to 20–22 h. In the static cultivation system the stationary phase was observed from the seventh day after inoculation, and there was no observed degradation of R. helvetica DNA during the 14 days studied. Microscopy showed that the organisms invaded the host cells rapidly and were primarily found free in the cytoplasm and only occasionally located in the nucleus. Four days after inoculation some of the host cells were broken and many indifferent stages of cytoplasmic organic decomposition were seen. However the R. helvetica organism did not show any morphologic alterations and the number of organisms was stable after the replication peak which may indicate that R. helvetica is adapted to growth in a Vero cell line and/or that the phase of degradation occurs later than the 14 days studied. The findings differ from what has been reported for other rickettsiae of the spotted fever group and may be of importance for invasiveness and virulence of R. helvetica.
Rickettsia helvetica; qPCR; Vero cells; Life cycle; Ultrastructure
Lizards are considered zooprophylactic for almost all Borrelia burgdorferi species, and act as dilution hosts in parts of North America. Whether European lizards significantly reduce the ability of B. burgdorferi to maintain itself in enzootic cycles, and consequently decrease the infection rate of Ixodes ricinus ticks for B. burgdorferi and other tick-borne pathogens in Western Europe is not clear.
Ticks were collected from sand lizards, their habitat (heath) and from the adjacent forest. DNA of tick-borne pathogens was detected by PCR followed by reverse line blotting. Tick densities were measured at all four locations by blanket dragging. Nymphs and adult ticks collected from lizards had a significantly lower (1.4%) prevalence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, compared to questing ticks in heath (24%) or forest (19%). The prevalence of Rickettsia helvetica was significantly higher in ticks from lizards (19%) than those from woodland (10%) whereas neither was significantly different from the prevalence in ticks from heather (15%). The prevalence of Anaplasma and Ehrlichia spp in heather (12%) and forest (14%) were comparable, but significantly lower in ticks from sand lizards (5.4%). The prevalence of Babesia spp in ticks varied between 0 and 5.3%. Tick load of lizards ranged from 1 - 16. Tick densities were ~ 5-fold lower in the heather areas than in woodlands at all four sites.
Despite their apparent low reservoir competence, the presence of sand lizards had insignificant impact on the B. burgdorferi s.l. infection rate of questing ticks. In contrast, sand lizards might act as reservoir hosts for R. helvetica. Remarkably, the public health risk from tick-borne diseases is approximately five times lower in heather than in woodland, due to the low tick densities in heather.
Only limited information is currently available on the prevalence of vector borne and zoonotic pathogens in dogs and ticks in Nigeria. The aim of this study was to use molecular techniques to detect and characterize vector borne pathogens in dogs and ticks from Nigeria.
Blood samples and ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus, Rhipicephalus turanicus and Heamaphysalis leachi) collected from 181 dogs from Nigeria were molecularly screened for human and animal vector-borne pathogens by PCR and sequencing. DNA of Hepatozoon canis (41.4%), Ehrlichia canis (12.7%), Rickettsia spp. (8.8%), Babesia rossi (6.6%), Anaplasma platys (6.6%), Babesia vogeli (0.6%) and Theileria sp. (0.6%) was detected in the blood samples. DNA of E. canis (23.7%), H. canis (21.1%), Rickettsia spp. (10.5%), Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (5.3%) and A. platys (1.9%) was detected in 258 ticks collected from 42 of the 181 dogs. Co- infections with two pathogens were present in 37% of the dogs examined and one dog was co-infected with 3 pathogens. DNA of Rickettsia conorii israelensis was detected in one dog and Rhipicephalus sanguineus tick. DNA of another human pathogen, Candidatus N. mikurensis was detected in Rhipicephalus sanguineus and Heamaphysalis leachi ticks, and is the first description of Candidatus N. mikurensis in Africa. The Theileria sp. DNA detected in a local dog in this study had 98% sequence identity to Theileria ovis from sheep.
The results of this study indicate that human and animal pathogens are abundant in dogs and their ticks in Nigeria and portray the potential high risk of human exposure to infection with these agents.
In Nigeria, dogs are not only kept as pets, but are also used for hunting as well as a source of animal protein among some ethnic groups. Ticks are known to infest dogs and serve as vectors for some pathogens of zoonotic and veterinary importance. There is limited information on the prevalence and distribution of vector borne pathogens in dogs and ticks in Nigeria. The aim of the study was to detect and characterize vector borne pathogens in dogs and ticks from Nigeria using molecular methods. The results of this study showed a high estimate of vector borne pathogens in Nigerian dogs (77.3%) and ticks (63.3%). DNA of Candidatus N. mikurensis, an emerging pathogen of humans was detected in Rhipicephalus sanguineus and Heamaphysalis leachi ticks. Another human pathogen, Rickettsia conorii israelensis the causative agent of Mediterranean spotted fever was detected in Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks. This is the first description of Candidatus N. mikurensis in Africa and Rickettsia conorii israelensis in Nigeria. These results indicate that the use of molecular techniques for the diagnosis of emerging infections in developing countries is of utmost importance in assisting physicians and veterinarians in making accurate diagnoses and providing the appropriate treatment for their patients.