In Europe, Ixodes ricinus is the vector of many pathogens of medical and veterinary relevance, among them Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and tick-borne encephalitis virus, which have been the subject of numerous investigations. Less is known about the occurrence of emerging tick-borne pathogens like Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in questing ticks. In this study, questing nymph and adult I. ricinus ticks were collected at 11 sites located in Western Switzerland. A total of 1,476 ticks were analyzed individually for the simultaneous presence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” and A. phagocytophilum. B. burgdorferi sensu lato, Rickettsia spp., and “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” were detected in ticks at all sites with global prevalences of 22.5%, 10.2%, and 6.4%, respectively. Babesia- and A. phagocytophilum-infected ticks showed a more restricted geographic distribution, and their prevalences were lower (1.9% and 1.5%, respectively). Species rarely reported in Switzerland, like Borrelia spielmanii, Borrelia lusitaniae, and Rickettsia monacensis, were identified. Infections with more than one pathogenic species, involving mostly Borrelia spp. and Rickettsia helvetica, were detected in 19.6% of infected ticks. Globally, 34.2% of ticks were infected with at least one pathogen. The diversity of tick-borne pathogens detected in I. ricinus in this study and the frequency of coinfections underline the need to take them seriously into consideration when evaluating the risks of infection following a tick bite.
Ixodes ricinus transmits Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the etiological agent of Lyme disease. Previous studies have also detected Rickettsia helvetica, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Neoehrlichia mikurensis, and several Babesia species in questing ticks in The Netherlands. In this study, we assessed the acarological risk of exposure to several tick-borne pathogens (TBPs), in The Netherlands. Questing ticks were collected monthly between 2006 and 2010 at 21 sites and between 2000 and 2009 at one other site. Nymphs and adults were analysed individually for the presence of TBPs using an array-approach. Collated data of this and previous studies were used to generate, for each pathogen, a presence/absence map and to further analyse their spatiotemporal variation. R. helvetica (31.1%) and B. burgdorferi sensu lato (11.8%) had the highest overall prevalence and were detected in all areas. N. mikurensis (5.6%), A. phagocytophilum (0.8%), and Babesia spp. (1.7%) were detected in most, but not all areas. The prevalences of pathogens varied among the study areas from 0 to 64%, while the density of questing ticks varied from 1 to 179/100 m2. Overall, 37% of the ticks were infected with at least one pathogen and 6.3% with more than one pathogen. One-third of the Borrelia-positive ticks were infected with at least one other pathogen. Coinfection of B. afzelii with N. mikurensis and with Babesia spp. occurred significantly more often than single infections, indicating the existence of mutual reservoir hosts. Alternatively, coinfection of R. helvetica with either B. afzelii or N. mikurensis occurred significantly less frequent. The diversity of TBPs detected in I. ricinus in this study and the frequency of their coinfections with B. burgdorferi s.l., underline the need to consider them when evaluating the risks of infection and subsequently the risk of disease following a tick bite.
vector-borne disease; Borrelia burgdorferi; Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Rickettsia helvetica; Rickettsia conorii; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Babesia; Ixodes ricinus
Raising abundance of ticks and tick-borne diseases in Europe is the result of multiple factors including climate changes and human activities. Herein, we investigated the presence and seasonal activity of Ixodes ricinus ticks from 10 urban and suburban sites in two different geographical areas of southeastern and northeastern Slovakia during 2008–2010. Our aim was to study the abundance of ticks in correlation with the environmental factors and their infection with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Questing I. ricinus ticks were collected from ten urban and suburban sites in Eastern Slovakia. A total of 670 ticks were further analysed for the presence of B. burgdorferi s.l., A. phagocytophilum and N. mikurensis by molecular methods. Tick site and environmental relations were analysed using General Linear Models (LM). The differences between the number of Lyme borreliosis cases between the Košice and Bardejov regions during a ten-year period were tested by Wilcoxon matched pairs test.
In total, 2921 (1913 nymphs, 1008 adults) I. ricinus ticks were collected from 10 study sites during the main questing season. Tick activity and relative abundance differed between locations and months. Temperature and humidity were the main factors affecting the tick abundance and questing activity. Out of 670 examined ticks, 10.15% were infected with spirochetes from B. burgdorferi s.l. complex (represented by B. afzelii, B. garinii, B.valaisiana and B. burgdorferi s.s.), 2.69% with the A. phagocytophilum and 2.39% with N. mikurensis. The number of Lyme borreliosis cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the Bardejov region was significantly higher than in the Košice region.
Our data indicate that the risk of infection with tick-borne pathogens in Eastern Slovakia is common since 15.2% of ticks were infected at least with one of the tested microorganisms. Even though the abundance of ticks was affected by the microclimatic conditions and the prevalence of pathogens differed between the habitats, the infection risk for humans is also affected by human activities leading to an increased contact with infected ticks.
Ixodes ricinus; Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Neoehrlichia mikurensis; PCR-RFLP; Lyme borreliosis; Anaplasmosis
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.
In Europe, ixodid ticks are important arthropod vectors of human and animal pathogens, but comprehensive studies of the prevalence of all relevant pathogens in Central Europe are scarce. As a result of ecological changes, the incidences of tick-borne infections are expected to increase. In this study, 1,394 nymphal and adult Ixodes ricinus ticks sampled monthly during the active season from 33 ecologically distinct collection sites throughout Luxembourg were screened for all human tick-borne pathogens relevant in Central Europe. Species were identified by sequence analysis of detection PCR amplicons. Mean infection rates of ticks were 11.3% for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, 5.1% for Rickettsia sp., 2.7% for Babesia sp., and 1.9% for Anaplasma phagocytophilum. No tick was found to be infected with Coxiella sp., Francisella tularensis subsp., or Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). A total of 3.2% of ticks were infected with more than one pathogen species, including mixed Borrelia infections (1.5%). Seasonal variations of tick infection rates were observed for Borrelia, Babesia, and Anaplasma, possibly reflecting a behavioral adaptation strategy of questing ticks. A positive correlation between the grade of urbanization and Borrelia infection rate of ticks was observed, suggesting an established urban zoonotic cycle. We also found Hepatozoon canis (0.1%) and Bartonella henselae (0.3%), which so far have not been found in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks in Central Europe.
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
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
The aims of this study were to evaluate the host-tick-pathogen interface of Babesia spp. and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in restored areas in both questing and host-attached Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus and their small mammalian hosts.
Questing ticks were collected from 5 sites within the city of Leipzig, Germany, in 2009. Small mammals were trapped at 3 of the 5 sites during 2010 and 2011. DNA extracts of questing and host-attached I. ricinus and D. reticulatus and of several tissue types of small mammals (the majority bank voles and yellow-necked mice), were investigated by PCR followed by sequencing for the occurrence of DNA of Babesia spp. and by real-time PCR for A. phagocytophilum. A selected number of samples positive for A. phagocytophilum were further investigated for variants of the partial 16S rRNA gene. Co-infection with Rickettsia spp. in the questing ticks was additionally investigated.
4.1% of questing I. ricinus ticks, but no D. reticulatus, were positive for Babesia sp. and 8.7% of I. ricinus for A. phagocytophilum. Sequencing revealed B. microti, B. capreoli and Babesia spp. EU1 in Leipzig and sequence analysis of the partial 16S RNA gene of A. phagocytophilum revealed variants either rarely reported in human cases or associated with cervid hosts. The statistical analysis revealed significantly less ticks infected with A. phagocytophilum in a city park in Leipzig as compared to the other sampling sites. A. phagocytophilum-DNA was detected in 2 bank voles, DNA of B. microti in 1 striped field-mouse and of Babesia sp. EU1 in the skin tissue of a mole. Co-infections were detected.
Our results show the involvement of small mammals in the natural endemic cycles of tick-borne pathogens. A more thorough understanding of the interactions of ticks, pathogens and hosts is the essential basis for effective preventive control measures.
Babesia spp; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes ricinus; Dermacentor reticulatus; Bank vole; Yellow-necked mouse; Recreational area; Host survey; Vector-host relation
Ticks can transmit a number of pathogens to humans and domestic animals. Tick borne diseases (TBDs), which may lead to organ failure and death have been recently reported in China. 98.75% of the total cases (>1000) in Henan provinces have been reported in Xinyang city. Therefore, the aims of this study were to investigate the fauna of ticks and detect the potential pathogens in ticks in Xinyang, the region of central China.
Ticks were collected from 10 villages of Xinyang from April to December 2012, from domestic animals including sheep, cattle and dogs. Then identification of ticks and detection of tick-borne pathogens, including Babesia spp., Theileria spp., Anaplasma spp., Ehrlichia spp., Rickettsia spp., tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Leishmania infantum, were undertaken by using polymerase chain reaction assay (PCR) and sequence analysis. Moreover, the co-infection patterns of various pathogens were compared among locations where ticks were collected.
A total of 308 ticks were collected. Two species of Ixodidae were found, namely Haemaphysalis longicornis (96.75%) and Rhipicephalus microplus (3.25%). Five genera of pathogens, namely Theileria spp. (3.25%), Anaplasma spp. (2.92%), Babesia spp. (1.95%), Ehrlichia spp. (2.92%) and Rickettsia spp. (0.65%), were detected in 7 villages. Co-infections by two pathogens were diagnosed in 11.11% of all infected ticks.
Both human and animal pathogens were abundant in ticks in the study areas. Humans and animals in these regions were at a high risk of exposure to piroplasmosis, since piroplasm had the highest rates of infection and co-infection in positive ticks.
Ticks; Domestic animals; Tick-borne pathogens; Co-infections; China
Worldwide, ticks are important vectors of human and animal pathogens. Besides Lyme Borreliosis, a variety of other bacterial and protozoal tick-borne infections are of medical interest in Europe. In this study, 553 questing and feeding Ixodes ricinus (n = 327) and Dermacentor reticulatus ticks (n = 226) were analysed by PCR for Borrelia, Rickettsia, Anaplasma, Coxiella, Francisella and Babesia species. Overall, the pathogen prevalence in ticks was 30.6% for I. ricinus and 45.6% for D. reticulatus. The majority of infections were caused by members of the spotted-fever group rickettsiae (24.4%), 9.4% of ticks were positive for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, with Borrelia afzelii being the most frequently detected species (40.4%). Pathogens with low prevalence rates in ticks were Anaplasma phagocytophilum (2.2%), Coxiella burnetii (0.9%), Francisella tularensis subspecies (0.7%), Bartonella henselae (0.7%), Babesia microti (0.5%) and Babesia venatorum (0.4%). On a regional level, hotspots of pathogens were identified for A. phagocytophilum (12.5–17.2%), F. tularensis ssp. (5.5%) and C. burnetii (9.1%), suggesting established zoonotic cycles of these pathogens at least at these sites. Our survey revealed a high burden of tick-borne pathogens in questing and feeding I. ricinus and D. reticulatus ticks collected in different regions in Belarus, indicating a potential risk for humans and animals. Identified hotspots of infected ticks should be included in future surveillance studies, especially when F. tularensis ssp. and C. burnetii are involved.
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.
Risk assessment of tick-borne and zoonotic disease emergence necessitates sound knowledge of the particular microorganisms circulating within the communities of these major vectors. Assessment of pathogens carried by wild ticks must be performed without a priori, to allow for the detection of new or unexpected agents.
We evaluated the potential of Next-Generation Sequencing techniques (NGS) to produce an inventory of parasites carried by questing ticks. Sequences corresponding to parasites from two distinct genera were recovered in Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in Eastern France: Babesia spp. and Theileria spp. Four Babesia species were identified, three of which were zoonotic: B. divergens, Babesia sp. EU1 and B. microti; and one which infects cattle, B. major. This is the first time that these last two species have been identified in France. This approach also identified new sequences corresponding to as-yet unknown organisms similar to tropical Theileria species.
Our findings demonstrate the capability of NGS to produce an inventory of live tick-borne parasites, which could potentially be transmitted by the ticks, and uncovers unexpected parasites in Western Europe.
Diseases transmitted by ticks have diverse etiology (viral, bacterial, parasitic) and are responsible for high morbidity and mortality rates around the world, both in humans and animals. The emergence or re-emergence of tick-borne diseases is increasingly becoming a problem as the geographical distribution of several tick species is expanding, as well as the numbers of potential or known tick-borne pathogens are constantly evolving. It is thus necessary to know which microorganisms circulate within communities of this major vector to ensure adequate epidemiological surveillance. In this study, we evaluated the potential of Next-Generation Sequencing techniques (NGS) to produce, without a priori, an inventory of both predicted and non-expected parasites carried by Ixodes ricinus, the most prevalent human biting tick in France. Our findings suggest that NGS strategies could be used to produce an inventory of live parasites residing in ticks from a selected area, thereby expanding our knowledge base of tick-associated parasites.
Ixodes ricinus is a major vector for a range of microbial pathogens and the most prevalent and widely distributed tick species on the European continent, occurring in both natural and urban habitats. Nevertheless, little is known about the relative density of ticks in these two ecologically distinct habitats and the diversity of tick-borne pathogens that they carry.
We compared densities of questing I. ricinus nymphs and adults in urban and natural habitats in Central and Northeastern Poland, assessed the prevalence and rate of co-infection with A. phagocytophilum, Rickettsia, Ehrlichia and ‘Ca. Neoehrlichia spp.’ in ticks, and compared the diversity of tick-borne pathogens using molecular assays (PCR).
Of the 1325 adults and nymphs, 6.2% were infected with at least one pathogen, with 4.4%, 1.7% and less than 0.5% being positive for the DNA of Rickettsia spp., A. phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia spp. and Ca. N. mikurensis, respectively. Although tick abundance was higher in natural habitats, the prevalence of the majority of pathogens was higher in urban forested areas.
We conclude that: (i) zoonotic genetic variants of A. phagocytophilum are widely distributed in the Polish tick population, (ii) although the diversity of tick borne pathogens was higher in natural habitats, zoonotic species/strains were detected only in urban forests, (iii) and we provide the first description of Ca. N. mikurensis infections in ticks in Poland.
Ixodes ricinus; Tick; Anaplasma; Rickettsia; Ehrlichia; Neoehrlichia; Natural habitats; Urban habitats; Tick density; Prevalence
Neoehrlichia mikurensis s an emerging and vector-borne zoonosis: The first human disease cases were reported in 2010. Limited information is available about the prevalence and distribution of Neoehrlichia mikurensis in Europe, its natural life cycle and reservoir hosts. An Ehrlichia-like schotti variant has been described in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks, which could be identical to Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Three genetic markers, 16S rDNA, gltA and GroEL, of Ehrlichia schotti-positive tick lysates were amplified, sequenced and compared to sequences from Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Based on these DNA sequences, a multiplex real-time PCR was developed to specifically detect Neoehrlichia mikurensis in combination with Anaplasma phagocytophilum in tick lysates. Various tick species from different life-stages, particularly Ixodes ricinus nymphs, were collected from the vegetation or wildlife. Tick lysates and DNA derived from organs of wild rodents were tested by PCR-based methods for the presence of Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Prevalence of Neoehrlichia mikurensis was calculated together with confidence intervals using Fisher's exact test.
The three genetic markers of Ehrlichia schotti-positive field isolates were similar or identical to Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was found to be ubiquitously spread in the Netherlands and Belgium, but was not detected in the 401 tick samples from the UK. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was found in nymphs and adult Ixodes ricinus ticks, but neither in their larvae, nor in any other tick species tested. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was detected in diverse organs of some rodent species. Engorging ticks from red deer, European mouflon, wild boar and sheep were found positive for Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Ehrlichia schotti is similar, if not identical, to Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Neoehrlichia mikurensis is present in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. We propose that Ixodes ricinus can transstadially, but not transovarially, transmit this microorganism, and that different rodent species may act as reservoir hosts. These data further imply that wildlife and humans are frequently exposed to Neoehrlichia mikurensis-infected ticks through tick bites. Future studies should aim to investigate to what extent Neoehrlichia mikurensis poses a risk to public health.
Vector-borne disease; Emerging zoonoses; Candidatus N. mikurensis; I. ricinus; Anaplasma phagocytophylum
Ecological changes are recognized as an important driver behind the emergence of infectious diseases. The prevalence of infection in ticks depends upon ecological factors that are rarely taken into account simultaneously. Our objective was to investigate the influences of forest fragmentation, vegetation, adult tick hosts, and habitat on the infection prevalence of three tick-borne bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and Rickettsia sp. of the spotted fever group, in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks, taking into account tick characteristics. Samples of questing nymphs and adults were taken from 61 pastures and neighboring woodlands in central France. The ticks were tested by PCR of pools of nymphs and individual adults. The individual infection prevalence was modeled using multivariate regression. The highest infection prevalences were found in adult females collected in woodland sites for B. burgdorferi sensu lato and A. phagocytophilum (16.1% and 10.7%, respectively) and in pasture sites for Rickettsia sp. (8.7%). The infection prevalence in nymphs was lower than 6%. B. burgdorferi sensu lato was more prevalent in woodlands than in pastures. Forest fragmentation favored B. burgdorferi sensu lato and A. phagocytophilum prevalence in woodlands, and in pastures, the B. burgdorferi sensu lato prevalence was favored by shrubby vegetation. Both results are probably because large amounts of edges or shrubs increase the abundance of small vertebrates as reservoir hosts. The Rickettsia sp. prevalence was maximal on pasture with medium forest fragmentation. Female ticks were more infected by B. burgdorferi sensu lato than males and nymphs in woodland sites, which suggests an interaction between the ticks and the bacteria. This study confirms the complexity of the tick-borne pathogen ecology. The findings support the importance of small vertebrates as reservoir hosts and make a case for further studies in Europe on the link between the composition of the reservoir host community and the infection prevalence in ticks.
Concurrent infections with vector-borne pathogens affected a cattle herd in Switzerland, and one of the pathogens was identified as Babesia bigemina, which had never been observed in this country before. Therefore, a survey of the occurrence of ruminant Babesia spp. and their tick vectors in Switzerland was conducted. A total of 2,017 ticks were collected from sheep, goats, cattle, and wild ruminants (deer, roe deer, and chamois) in southern parts of Switzerland and identified morphologically. The vast majority of the ticks (99.2%) were Ixodes ricinus, but 14 ticks from sheep and goats were identified as Dermacentor marginatus and two ticks from wild ruminants were identified as Hemaphysalis punctata. PCR analyses of 700 ticks revealed the presence of Babesia divergens (n = 6), Babesia sp. genotype EU1 (n = 14), and B. major (n = 2), whose suggested occurrence was confirmed in this study by molecular analysis, and the presence of novel Babesia sp. genotype CH1 (n = 4), which is closely related to B. odocoilei and to Babesia sp. genotype RD61 reported from North America. The identification of B. divergens and B. major in ticks collected from wild ruminants cast doubt on the postulated strict host specificity of these bovine Babesia species. Furthermore, the zoonotic Babesia sp. genotype EU1 was detected in ticks collected from domestic animals but was obtained predominantly from ticks collected from wild ruminants. More than one tick containing DNA of different Babesia spp. were collected from two red deer. Hence, the role of these game animals as reservoir hosts of Babesia spp. seems to be important but requires further investigation.
Ixodes ricinus is the main vector in Europe of human-pathogenic Lyme borreliosis (LB) spirochaetes, the tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) and other pathogens of humans and domesticated mammals. The results of a previous 1994 questionnaire, directed at people living in Central and North Sweden (Svealand and Norrland) and aiming to gather information about tick exposure for humans and domestic animals, suggested that Ixodes ricinus ticks had become more widespread in Central Sweden and the southern part of North Sweden from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. To investigate whether the expansion of the tick's northern geographical range and the increasing abundance of ticks in Sweden were still occurring, in 2009 we performed a follow-up survey 16 years after the initial study.
A questionnaire similar to the one used in the 1994 study was published in Swedish magazines aimed at dog owners, home owners, and hunters. The questionnaire was published together with a popular science article about the tick's biology and role as a pathogen vector in Sweden. The magazines were selected to get information from people familiar with ticks and who spend time in areas where ticks might be present.
Analyses of data from both surveys revealed that during the near 30-year period from the early 1980s to 2008, I. ricinus has expanded its distribution range northwards. In the early 1990s ticks were found in new areas along the northern coastline of the Baltic Sea, while in the 2009 study, ticks were reported for the first time from many locations in North Sweden. This included locations as far north as 66°N and places in the interior part of North Sweden. During this 16-year period the tick's range in Sweden was estimated to have increased by 9.9%. Most of the range expansion occurred in North Sweden (north of 60°N) where the tick's coverage area doubled from 12.5% in the early 1990s to 26.8% in 2008. Moreover, according to the respondents, the abundance of ticks had increased markedly in LB- and TBE-endemic areas in South (Götaland) and Central Sweden.
The results suggest that I. ricinus has expanded its range in North Sweden and has become distinctly more abundant in Central and South Sweden during the last three decades. However, in the northern mountain region I. ricinus is still absent. The increased abundance of the tick can be explained by two main factors: First, the high availability of large numbers of important tick maintenance hosts, i.e., cervids, particularly roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) during the last three decades. Second, a warmer climate with milder winters and a prolonged growing season that permits greater survival and proliferation over a larger geographical area of both the tick itself and deer. High reproductive potential of roe deer, high tick infestation rate and the tendency of roe deer to disperse great distances may explain the range expansion of I. ricinus and particularly the appearance of new TBEV foci far away from old TBEV-endemic localities. The geographical presence of LB in Sweden corresponds to the distribution of I. ricinus. Thus, LB is now an emerging disease risk in many parts of North Sweden. Unless countermeasures are undertaken to keep the deer populations, particularly C. capreolus and Dama dama, at the relatively low levels that prevailed before the late 1970s - especially in and around urban areas where human population density is high - by e.g. reduced hunting of red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and lynx (Lynx lynx), the incidences of human LB and TBE are expected to continue to be high or even to increase in Sweden in coming decades.
The redwood chipmunk contributes to the maintenance of tick-borne diseases in northern California. The range of redwood chipmunks overlaps that of western black-legged ticks and tick-borne disease, including granulocytic anaplasmosis and Lyme borreliosis. Chipmunks have high Anaplasma phagocytophilum PCR- and seroprevalence, are infested with a diversity of Ixodes spp. ticks, and are reservoir competent for Borrelia burgdorferi. We hypothesized that chipmunks could maintain tick-borne disease on the forest floor while also potentially bridging infection to arboreal sciurids as well. We used radio-telemetry to evaluate chipmunk movement and use of trees, characterized burrows, described prevalence of tick-borne disease, and identified ticks on these chipmunks. A total of 192 chipmunks from Hendy Woods, Mendocino County, California, USA, was evaluated between November 2005 and April 2009. The mean density was 2.26–5.8 chipmunks/ha. The longest detected life span was 3 years. Female weights ranged from 80–120 g and males from 80–180 g. The A. phagocytophilum and Borrelia spp. seroprevalence was 21.4% and 24.7%, respectively, and PCR prevalence for these pathogens was 10.6% and 0%, respectively. Ixodes spp. ticks included I. angustus, I. ochotonae, I. pacificus, and I. spinipalpis. The mean infestation level was 0.92 ticks/chipmunk. Based on telemetry of 11 chipmunks, the greatest distance traveled ranged from 0.14–0.63 km for females and 0.1–1.26 km for males. Areas occupied by chipmunks ranged from 0.005–0.24 km2 for females and 0.006–0.73 km2 for males. On 3 occasions, chipmunks were found in trees. Burrows were identified under a moss-covered redwood log, deep under a live redwood tree, under a Douglas fir log, in a clump of huckleberry, in a root collection from an overturned Douglas fir tree, and in a cluster of exposed huckleberry roots. The biology of the redwood chipmunk has multiple features that allow it to be an important reservoir host for tick-borne disease in northwestern California.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; Relapsing fever; Borrelia spp; Reservoir; Rodent
The common tick Ixodes ricinus is the main vector in Europe of the tick-borne encephalitis virus and of several species of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex, which are the etiological agents of Lyme borreliosis. The risk to contract bites of I. ricinus is dependent on many factors including the behaviour of both ticks and people. The tick’s site of attachment on the human body and the duration of tick attachment may be of clinical importance. Data on I. ricinus ticks, which were found attached to the skin of people, were analysed regarding potentially stage-specific differences in location of attachment sites, duration of tick attachment (= feeding duration), seasonal and geographical distribution of tick infestation in relation to age and gender of the tick-infested hosts.
During 2008–2009, 1770 tick-bitten persons from Sweden and the Åland Islands removed 2110 I. ricinus ticks. Participants provided information about the date of tick detection and location on their body of each attached tick. Ticks were identified to species and developmental stage. The feeding duration of each nymph and adult female tick was microscopically estimated based on the scutal and the coxal index.
In 2008, participants were tick-bitten from mid-May to mid-October and in 2009 from early April to early November. The infestation pattern of the nymphs was bimodal whereas that of the adult female ticks was unimodal with a peak in late summer. Tick attachment site on the human body was associated with stage of the tick and gender of the human host. Site of attachment seemed to influence the duration of tick feeding. Overall, 63% of nymphs and adult female ticks were detected and removed more than 24 hours after attachment. Older persons, compared to younger ones, and men, compared to women, removed “their” ticks after a longer period of tick attachment.
The infestation behaviour of the different tick stages concerning where on the host’s body the ticks generally will attach and when such ticks generally will be detected and removed in relation to host age and gender, should be of value for the development of prophylactic methods against tick infestation and to provide relevant advice to people on how to avoid or reduce the risk of tick infestation.
Ixodes ricinus; Tick infestation; Tick bite; Attachment site; Feeding behaviour; Feeding duration; Host-seeking behaviour; Seasonal activity; Sweden; Åland
Environmental factors may drive tick ecology and therefore tick-borne pathogen (TBP) epidemiology, which determines the risk to animals and humans of becoming infected by TBPs. For this reason, the aim of this study was to analyze the influence of environmental factors on the abundance of immature-stage Ixodes ricinus ticks and on the prevalence of two zoonotic I. ricinus-borne pathogens in natural foci of endemicity. I. ricinus abundance was measured at nine sites in the northern Iberian Peninsula by dragging the vegetation with a cotton flannelette, and ungulate abundance was measured by means of dung counts. In addition to ungulate abundance, data on variables related to spatial location, climate, and soil were gathered from the study sites. I. ricinus adults, nymphs, and larvae were collected from the vegetation, and a representative subsample of I. ricinus nymphs from each study site was analyzed by PCR for the detection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Anaplasma phagocytophilum DNA. Mean prevalences of these pathogens were 4.0% ± 1.8% and 20.5% ± 3.7%, respectively. Statistical analyses confirmed the influence of spatial factors, climate, and ungulate abundance on I. ricinus larva abundance, while nymph abundance was related only to climate. Interestingly, cattle abundance rather than deer abundance was the main driver of B. burgdorferi sensu lato and A. phagocytophilum prevalence in I. ricinus nymphs in the study sites, where both domestic and wild ungulates coexist. The increasing abundance of cattle seems to increase the risk of other hosts becoming infected by A. phagocytophilum, while reducing the risk of being infected by B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Controlling ticks in cattle in areas where they coexist with wild ungulates would be more effective for TBP control than reducing ungulate abundance.
Understanding the variation in prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (Lyme Borreliosis Spirochaetes, LBS) and Anaplasma phagocytophilum (causing tick-borne fever in ruminants and human granulocytic ehrlichiosis) in ticks is vital from both a human and an animal disease perspective to target the most effective mitigation measures. From the host competence hypothesis, we predicted that prevalence of LBS would decrease with red deer density, while prevalence of A. phagocytophilum would increase.
Based on a sample of 112 adult and 686 nymphal Ixodes ricinus ticks collected with flagging during questing from 31 transects (4–500 m long) corresponding to individual seasonal home ranges of 41 red deer along the west coast of Norway, we tested whether there were spatial and seasonal variations in prevalence with a special emphasis on the population density of the most common large host in this area, the red deer (Cervus elaphus). We used a multiplex real-time PCR assay for detection of A. phagocytophilum and LBS.
Prevalence of LBS was higher in adult female ticks (21.6%) compared to adult male ticks (11.5%) and nymphs (10.9%), while prevalence was similar among stages for prevalence of A. phagocytophilum (8.8%). Only partly consistent with predictions, we found a lower prevalence of LBS in areas of high red deer density, while there was no relationship between red deer density and prevalence of A. phagocytophilum in ticks. Prevalence of both bacteria was much higher in ticks questing in May compared to August.
Our study provides support to the notion that spatial variation in host composition forms a role for prevalence of LBS in ticks also in a northern European ecosystem, while no such association was found for A. phagocytophilum. Further studies are needed to fully understand the similar seasonal pattern of prevalence of the two pathogens.
Anaplasma; Borrelia; Dilution effects; Host competence hypothesis; Ixodes ricinus; Lyme Borreliosis Spirochaetes; Prevalence; Red deer; Rodents; Ticks
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Anaplasma phagocytophilum have been considered as pathogens in animals and humans. The role of wild cervids in the epidemiology is not clear. We analyzed questing Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in spring for these pathogens from sites with high (Fjelløyvær and Strøm) and low density (Tjore, Hinnebu and Jomfruland) of wild cervids to study the spread of the pathogens in questing ticks.
For detection of Anaplasma phagocytophilum a 77-bp fragment in the msp2 gene was used. Detection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was performed using the FL6 and FL7 primers according to sequences of conserved regions of the fla gene. The OspA gene located on the linear 49-kb plasmid was used as target in multiplex PCR for genotyping. Genospecies-specific primers were used in the PCR for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. afzelii and B. garinii.
Infection rates with Borrelia spp. were significantly lower at Fjelløyvær and Strøm compared to Tjore and Hinnebu; Fjelløyvær vs. Tjore (χ2 = 20.27, p < 0.0001); Fjelløyvær vs. Hinnebu (χ2 = 24.04, p < 0.0001); Strøm vs. Tjore (χ2 = 11.47, p = 0.0007) and Strøm vs. Hinnebu (χ2 = 16.63, p < 0.0001). The Borrelia genospecies were dominated by. B. afzelii (82%) followed by B. garinii (9.7%) and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (6.9%). B. burgdorferi s.s. was only found on the island of Jomfruland. The infection rate of Anaplasma phagocytophilum showed the following figures; Fjelløyvær vs Hinnebu (χ2 = 16.27, p = 0.0001); Strøm vs. Tjore (χ2 = 13.16, p = 0.0003); Strøm vs. Hinnebu (χ2 = 34.71, p < 0.0001); Fjelløyvær vs. Tjore (χ2 = 3.19, p = 0.0742) and Fjelløyvær vs. Støm (χ2 = 5.06, p = 0.0245). Wild cervids may serve as a reservoir for A. phagocytophilum. Jomfruland, with no wild cervids but high levels of migrating birds and rodents, harboured both B. burgdorferi s.l. and A. phagocytophilum in questing I. ricinus ticks. Birds and rodents may play an important role in maintaining the pathogens on Jomfruland.
The high abundance of roe deer and red deer on the Norwegian islands of Fjelløyvær and Strøm may reduce the infection rate of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in host seeking Ixodes ricinus, in contrast to mainland sites at Hinnebu and Tjore with moderate abundance of wild cervids. The infection rate of Anaplasma phagocytophilum showed the opposite result with a high prevalence in questing ticks in localities with a high density of wild cervids compared to localities with lower density.
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (sl), the causative agent of Lyme borreliosis, is transmitted by ticks of the genus Ixodes as vector. For identification of Borrelia infections in ticks a TaqMan™ minor groove binder (MGB) probe-based quantitative real time PCR (qPCR) was established targeting the 5S-23S intergenic spacer. Extension to a duplex qPCR included an Ixodes spp. positive control to verify successful DNA isolation. Besides qPCR, an ospA-specific conventional PCR for species-specific identification of B. spielmanii was established. Afterwards 1000 I. ricinus flagged in the city of Hanover, Germany, were investigated for B. burgdorferi sl infections followed by species identification. Furthermore, I. hexagonus ticks were investigated to proof applicability of the PCRs.
Quantitative real time PCR (qPCR) identifying B. burgdorferi sl in ticks was able to detect 1-10 copies per reaction. B. spielmanii ospA-specific conventional PCR was also highly specific and showed no cross reactions with the other tested Borrelia species. From 1000 hanoveranian ticks 24.3% were positive compared to only 7.4% positives by dark-field microscopy. Related to tick stage 1.7% larvae, 18.1% nymphs, and 34.6% adults were positive. The most frequent species was B. garinii, followed by B. afzelii, B. spielmanii, B. valaisiana and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (ss). 70.6% of I. ricinus were mono-infected, whereas 28.0% and 1.4% were infected with two and three Borrelia species, respectively. From 232 I. hexagonus collected from hedgehogs in different sites of Germany, qPCR detected 5.7% to be infected with B. burgdorferi sl, which were identified as B. afzelii, B. garinii and B. spielmanii.
The evaluated qPCR to detect B. burgdorferi sl in Ixodes spp. is highly specific and sensitive. As a duplex qPCR including detection of Ixodes spp. DNA it is the first DNA based technique incorporating a control for successful DNA isolation from the vector tick. Establishment of a B. spielmanii specific conventional PCR filled the gap in PCR identification of principal European Borrelia genospecies. Practical application showed that all European pathogenic Borrelia spp. were present in I. ricinus flagged in recreational areas of the city of Hanover and confirmed I. hexagonus as reservoir for pathogenic Borrelia spp.
There are 4 major human-biting tick species in the northeastern United States, which include: Amblyomma americanum, Amblyomma maculatum, Dermacentor variabilis, and Ixodes scapularis. The black bear is a large mammal that has been shown to be parasitized by all the aforementioned ticks. We investigated the bacterial infections in ticks collected from Louisiana black bears (Ursus americanus subspecies luteolus). Eighty-six ticks were collected from 17 black bears in Louisiana from June 2010 to March 2011. All 4 common human-biting tick species were represented. Each tick was subjected to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting select bacterial pathogens and symbionts. Bacterial DNA was detected in 62% of ticks (n=53). Rickettsia parkeri, the causative agent of an emerging spotted fever group rickettsiosis, was identified in 66% of A. maculatum, 28% of D. variabilis, and 11% of I. scapularis. The Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, was detected in 2 I. scapularis, while one Am. americanum was positive for Borrelia bissettii, a putative human pathogen. The rickettsial endosymbionts Candidatus Rickettsia andeanae, rickettsial endosymbiont of I. scapularis, and Rickettsia amblyommii were detected in their common tick hosts at 21%, 39%, and 60%, respectively. All ticks were PCR-negative for Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia spp., and Babesia microti. This is the first reported detection of R. parkeri in vector ticks in Louisiana; we also report the novel association of R. parkeri with I. scapularis. Detection of both R. parkeri and Bo. burgdorferi in their respective vectors in Louisiana demands further investigation to determine potential for human exposure to these pathogens.
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