In Europe, dormice serve as competent reservoir hosts for particular genospecies of the tick-borne agent of Lyme disease (LD) and seem to support them more efficiently than do mice or voles. The longevity of edible dormice (Glis glis) and their attractiveness for ticks may result in a predominance of LD spirochetes in ticks questing in dormouse habitats. To investigate the role of edible dormice in the transmission cycle of LD spirochetes, we sampled skin tissue from the ear pinnae of dormice inhabiting five different study sites in south western Germany. Of 501 edible dormice, 12.6% harbored DNA of LD spirochetes. Edible dormice were infected most frequently with the pathogenic LD spirochete Borrelia afzelii. The DNA of B. garinii and B. bavariensis was detected in ca. 0.5% of the examined individuals. No spirochetal DNA was detectable in the skin of edible dormice until July, 6 weeks after they generally start to emerge from their obligate hibernation. Thereafter, the prevalence of spirochetal DNA in edible dormice increased during the remaining period of their 4 to 5 months of activity, reaching nearly 40% in September. Males were more than four times more likely to harbor LD spirochetes than females, and yearlings were almost twice more likely to be infected than adults. The seasonality of the prevalence of LD spirochetes in edible dormice was pronounced and may affect their role as a reservoir host in respect to other hosts.
Rodent betaherpesviruses vary considerably in genomic content, and these variations can result in a distinct pathogenicity. Therefore, the identification of unknown betaherpesviruses in house mice (Mus musculus), the most important rodent host species in basic research, is of importance. During a search for novel herpesviruses in house mice using herpesvirus consensus PCR and attempts to isolate viruses in tissue culture, we identified a previously unknown betaherpesvirus. The primary PCR search in mouse organs revealed the presence of known strains of murine cytomegalovirus (Murid herpesvirus 1) and of Mus musculus rhadinovirus 1 only. However, the novel virus was detected after incubation of organ pieces in fibroblast tissue culture and subsequent PCR analysis of the supernatants. Long-distance PCR amplification including the DNA polymerase and glycoprotein B genes revealed a 3.4 kb sequence that was similar to sequences of rodent cytomegaloviruses. Pairwise sequence comparisons and phylogenetic analyses showed that this newly identified murine virus is most similar to the English isolate of rat cytomegalovirus, thereby raising the possibility that two distinct CMV lineages have evolved in both Mus musculus and Rattus norvegicus.
The tick Ixodes ricinus uses its mouthparts to penetrate the skin of its host and to remain attached for about a week, during which time Lyme disease spirochaetes may pass from the tick to the host. To understand how the tick achieves both tasks, penetration and attachment, with the same set of implements, we recorded the insertion events by cinematography, interpreted the mouthparts’ function by scanning electron microscopy and identified their points of articulation by confocal microscopy. Our structural dynamic observations suggest that the process of insertion and attachment occurs via a ratchet-like mechanism with two distinct stages. Initially, the two telescoping chelicerae pierce the skin and, by moving alternately, generate a toehold. Subsequently, a breaststroke-like motion, effected by simultaneous flexure and retraction of both chelicerae, pulls in the barbed hypostome. This combination of a flexible, dynamic mechanical ratchet and a static holdfast thus allows the tick to solve the problem of how to penetrate skin and also remain stuck for long periods of time.
Ixodes tick; mouthparts; ratchet; attachment
“Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” (Anaplasmataceae) is an emerging pathogen transmitted by Ixodes ticks. Conventional PCR and the newly developed high-resolution melt PCR were used to detect and discriminate “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Both bacterial species were frequently found in Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes hexagonus but virtually absent from Dermacentor reticulatus. In rodents, “Candidatus N. mikurensis” was significantly more prevalent than A. phagocytophilum, whereas in cats, only A. phagocytophilum was found.
Spirochetes belonging to the Borrelia (B.) burgdorferi sensu lato complex differ in their resistance to complement-mediated killing, particularly in regard to human serum. In the present study, we elucidate the serum and complement susceptibility of B. valaisiana, a genospecies with the potential to cause Lyme disease in Europe as well as in Asia. Among the investigated isolates, growth of ZWU3 Ny3 was not affected while growth of VS116 and Bv9 was strongly inhibited in the presence of 50% human serum. Analyzing complement activation, complement components C3, C4 and C6 were deposited on the surface of isolates VS116 and Bv9, and similarly the membrane attack complex was formed on their surface. In contrast, no surface-deposited components and no aberrations in cell morphology were detected for serum-resistant ZWU3 Ny3. While further investigating the protective role of bound complement regulators in mediating complement resistance, we discovered that none of the B. valaisiana isolates analyzed bound complement regulators Factor H, Factor H-like protein 1, C4b binding protein or C1 esterase inhibitor. In addition, B. valaisiana also lacked intrinsic proteolytic activity to degrade complement components C3, C3b, C4, C4b, and C5. Taken together, these findings suggest that certain B. valaisiana isolates differ in their capability to resist complement-mediating killing by human serum. The molecular mechanism utilized by B. valaisiana to inhibit bacteriolysis appears not to involve binding of the key host complement regulators of the alternative, classical, and lectin pathways as already known for serum-resistant Lyme disease or relapsing fever borreliae.
To estimate the likelihood of people coming into contact with the recently described tick-borne agent “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” we compared its prevalence to those of Lyme disease spirochetes and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in questing adult Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in various Central European sites and examined ticks, which had been removed from people, for the presence of these pathogens. Whereas spirochetes infected questing adult ticks most frequently (22.3%), fewer than a third as many ticks were infected by “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” (6.2%), and about a sixth harbored A. phagocytophilum (3.9%). On average, every twelfth encounter of a person with an I. ricinus tick (8.1%) may bear the risk of acquiring “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis.” Although a fifth of the people (20%) had removed at least one tick infected by “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” none displayed symptoms described for this pathogen, suggesting that its transmission may not be immediate and/or that immunocompetent individuals may not be affected. Because immunosuppressed patients may be at a particular risk of developing symptoms, it should be considered that “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” appears to be the second most common pathogen in I. ricinus ticks. In our survey, only Borrelia afzelii appears to infect Central European vector ticks more frequently.
It is known that evolution by selection on new or standing single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the vitamin K 2,3-epoxide reductase subcomponent 1 (vkorc1) of house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) can cause resistance to anticoagulant rodenticides such as warfarin [1–3]. Here we report an introgression in European M. m. domesticus spanning as much as ~20.3 megabases (Mb) and including vkorc1, the molecular target of anticoagulants [1–4], that stems from hybridization with the Algerian mouse (M. spretus). We show that in the laboratory the homozygous complete vkorc1 allele of M. spretus confers resistance when introgressed into M. m. domesticus. Consistent with selection on the introgression after the introduction of rodenticides in the 1950s we document historically adaptive population genetics of vkorc1 in M. m. domesticus. Furthermore, we detected adaptive protein evolution of vkorc1 in the M. spretus lineage (Ka/Ks=1.54–1.93) resulting in radical amino-acid substitutions that apparently have anticoagulant tolerance of M. spretus as pleiotropic effect. Thus, positive selection produced an adaptive, divergent and pleiotropic vkorc1 allele in the donor species, M. spretus, which crossed a species barrier where it is expressed as adaptive trait in the recipient species, M. m. domesticus. Resistant house mice originated from selection on new or standing vkorc1 polymorphisms and from selection on vkorc1 polymorphisms acquired by adaptive introgressive hybridization.
To determine whether the pathogenic Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia spielmanii is adapted exclusively to garden dormice, we compared the reservoir competence of various rodent species for this spirochete, including sympatric and peridomestic rodents. The different kinds of rodents varied in their attractiveness to nymphal ticks and their level of susceptibility to tick-borne B. spielmanii infection, but only the edible dormouse appeared to be refractory. Although hazel dormice and Norway rats became infectious to ticks somewhat later than did garden dormice, they remained infectious for a longer period of time. During the course of a tick season, garden and hazel dormice contributed theoretically more than twice as many B. spielmanii-infected ticks than the somewhat less susceptible Norway rats and wood or yellow-necked mice. Hazel dormice appeared to be extraordinarily competent as reservoir hosts for B. spielmanii. Because peridomestic rodents proved to be reservoir competent, urban foci of transmission of B. spielmanii may affect the health of townspeople.
To estimate relative risk for exposure to ticks infected with Lyme disease–causing spirochetes in different land-use types along a trail in Germany, we compared tick density and spirochete prevalence on ruminant pasture with that on meadow and fallow land. Risk was significantly lower on pasture than on meadow and fallow land.
Lyme disease; zooprophylaxis; ruminants; reservoir hosts; spirochetes; bacteria; ticks; vector-borne infections; Borrelia burgdorferi; Borrelia spp.; Germany; dispatch
To determine whether and which spirochetes are cleared from Ixodes ricinus ticks during feeding on ruminants, ticks were removed from goats and cattle grazing on tick-infested pastures. Although about a quarter of ticks questing on the pasture were infected by spirochetes, no molted ticks that had previously engorged to repletion on ruminants harbored Lyme disease spirochetes. Borrelia miyamotoi spirochetes, however, appear not to be eliminated. Thus, the more subadult ticks are diverted from reservoir-competent hosts to zooprophylactic ruminants, the smaller the risk of infection by Lyme disease spirochetes is.
Spirochetes belonging to the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex differ in resistance to complement-mediated killing by human serum. Here, we characterize complement sensitivity of a panel of B. lusitaniae isolates derived from ticks collected in Germany and Portugal as well as one patient-derived isolate, PoHL. All isolates are highly susceptible to complement-mediated lysis in human serum and activate complement predominantly by the alternative pathway, leading to an increased deposition of complement components C3, C6, and the terminal complement complex. Interestingly, serum-sensitive B. lusitaniae isolates were able to bind immune regulator factor H (CFH), and some strains also bound CFH-related protein 1 (CFHR1) and CFHR2. Moreover, CFH bound to the surface of B. lusitaniae was inefficient in mediating C3b conversion. Furthermore, the identification and characterization of a potential CFH-binding protein, OspE, revealed that this molecule possesses a significantly reduced binding capacity for CFH compared to that of CFH-binding OspE paralogs expressed by various serum-resistant Borrelia species. This finding suggests that a reduced binding capability of CFH is associated with an increased serum sensitivity of B. lusitaniae to human complement.
Bartonella spp. can cause persistent bloodstream infections in humans and animals. To determine whether Bartonella henselae is present in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks, we analyzed the prevalence of B. henselae DNA among tick stages compared to the prevalence of DNA from Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the pathogen most frequently transmitted by ticks. B. henselae DNA was present with a prevalence of up to ∼40% in tick populations sampled in four European sites (Eberdingen, Germany; Klasdorf, Germany; Lembach, France; and Madeira, Portugal). The odds of detecting B. henselae DNA in nymphal ticks was ∼14-fold higher than in adult ticks. No tick was found to be coinfected with B. henselae and B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Taken together, our data indicate that ticks might serve as a vector for the transmission of B. henselae to humans.
Rodent herpesviruses such as murine cytomegalovirus (host, Mus musculus), rat cytomegalovirus (host, Rattus norvegicus), and murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (hosts, Apodemus species) are important tools for the experimental study of human herpesvirus diseases. However, alphaherpesviruses, roseoloviruses, and lymphocryptoviruses, as well as rhadinoviruses, that naturally infect Mus musculus (house mouse) and other Old World mice are unknown. To identify hitherto-unknown rodent-associated herpesviruses, we captured M. musculus, R. norvegicus, and 14 other rodent species in several locations in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Thailand. Samples of trigeminal ganglia, dorsal root ganglia, brains, spleens, and other organs, as well as blood, were analyzed with a degenerate panherpesvirus PCR targeting the DNA polymerase (DPOL) gene. Herpesvirus-positive samples were subjected to a second degenerate PCR targeting the glycoprotein B (gB) gene. The sequences located between the partial DPOL and gB sequences were amplified by long-distance PCR and sequenced, resulting in a contiguous sequence of approximately 3.5 kbp. By DPOL PCR, we detected 17 novel betaherpesviruses and 21 novel gammaherpesviruses but no alphaherpesvirus. Of these 38 novel herpesviruses, 14 were successfully analyzed by the complete bigenic approach. Most importantly, the first gammaherpesvirus of Mus musculus was discovered (Mus musculus rhadinovirus 1 [MmusRHV1]). This virus is a member of a novel group of rodent gammaherpesviruses, which is clearly distinct from murine herpesvirus 68-like rodent gammaherpesviruses. Multigenic phylogenetic analysis, using an 8-kbp locus, revealed that MmusRHV1 diverged from the other gammaherpesviruses soon after the evolutionary separation of Epstein-Barr virus-like lymphocryptoviruses from human herpesvirus 8-like rhadinoviruses and alcelaphine herpesvirus 1-like macaviruses.
TOC Summary: Low-intensity cattle grazing limits Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., but not B. miyamotoi, in vector ticks.
To determine the effect of cattle on the risk for Lyme disease, we compared the prevalence of spirochete infection in questing vector ticks collected from a pasture with low-intensity cattle grazing with the prevalence in those collected from a site on which no cattle grazed. The presence of cattle limited the prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., but not B. miyamotoi, in vector ticks. The reintroduction of traditional, nonintensive agriculture in central Europe may help reduce risk for Lyme disease.
Lyme disease; prevention; zooprophylaxis; landscape management; research
To determine whether the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia lusitaniae is associated with lizards, we compared the prevalence and genospecies of spirochetes present in rodent- and lizard-associated ticks at a site where this spirochete frequently infects questing ticks. Whereas questing nymphal Ixodes ricinus ticks were infected mainly by Borrelia afzelii, one-half of the infected adult ticks harbored B. lusitaniae at our study site. Lyme disease spirochetes were more prevalent in sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) and common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) than in small rodents. Although subadult ticks feeding on rodents acquired mainly B. afzelii, subadult ticks feeding on lizards became infected by B. lusitaniae. Genetic analysis confirmed that the spirochetes isolated from ticks feeding on lizards are members of the B. lusitaniae genospecies and resemble type strain PotiB2. At our central European study site, lizards, which were previously considered zooprophylactic for the agent of Lyme disease, appear to perpetuate B. lusitaniae.
To determine whether the pathogenic variant of Lyme disease spirochetes, isolate A14S, is perpetuated in a particular reservoir-vector relationship, we screened vector ticks in various Central European sites for a related spirochete and determined its host association. A14S-like spirochetes infect numerous questing ticks in the Petite Camargue Alsacienne (PC). They frequently infect dormice, but no mice or voles. Garden dormice appear to be better reservoir hosts for A14S-like spirochetes than for Borrelia afzelii, because these spirochetes are retained longer and infect ticks more readily. Spirochetes associated with garden dormice in the PC site form a homologous entity with those isolated from a human patient in The Netherlands. Its unique biological relationship together with previous genetic characterization justifies designating this dormouse-associated genospecies as a distinct entity. Garden dormice serve as the main reservoir hosts of a novel genospecies, Borrelia spielmani sp. nov., one of several that cause Lyme disease in people.
We compared the relative reservoir competence of European wood mice for two genospecies of Lyme disease spirochetes by analyzing susceptibility, intrinsic incubation period, and degree and duration of infectivity. Borrelia afzelii, specializing in particular reservoir hosts, is better adapted to those hosts than is the more generalist genospecies B. burgdorferi sensu stricto.
To determine whether relapsing fever–like spirochetes associated with hard ticks may infect Ixodes ricinus ticks in central Europe, we screened questing ticks for 16S rDNA similar to that of Asian and American relapsing fever–like spirochetes. We compared the prevalence of these spirochetes to that of Lyme disease spirochetes transmitted by the same vector. Relapsing fever-like spirochetes infect 3.5% of questing vector ticks in our three central European sites near the Rhein Valley. These spirochetes differ genetically from their American and Asian analogs while being relatively homogeneous in the region we sampled. The Lyme disease genospecies most commonly detected in central Europe are distributed broadly, whereas those that are less frequently found appear to be place-specific. The absence of co-infected ticks suggests that relapsing fever–like and Lyme disease spirochetes may not share hosts. Exposure risk for relapsing fever–like spirochetes is similar to that of certain Lyme disease genospecies. Although many persons may be bitten by ticks infected by relapsing fever–like spirochetes, health implications remain unknown.
spirochetes; relapsing fever; Lyme disease; hard ticks; genospecies; Ixodes ricinus; research
To determine whether direct passage of spirochetes between co-feeding vector ticks contributes to the likelihood that the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia afzelii will perpetuate in nature, we compared the effects of time and space on transmission efficiency between simultaneously feeding ticks. The likelihood of co-feeding transmission increases with duration of attachment of the infecting tick. Co-feeding transmission becomes less efficient as distance from the infecting tick increases. Approximately 6 times as many ticks acquire infection when feeding on infected mice than when co-feeding with infected ticks. Both subadult stages of the wood tick Ixodes ricinus infrequently co-infest mice and voles in nature; on approximately 1 in 20 small rodents, larvae co-feed with spirochete-infected nymphs. Because only 1 in 100 larvae in nature appear to acquire spirochetal infection when co-feeding with infected nymphs, perpetuation of B. afzelii depends largely on horizontal transmission of such pathogens from previously infected mice to noninfected larvae.
transmission; co-feeding; Lyme disease; Borrelia afzelii; Ixodes ricinus
To describe the contribution of garden dormice to the epizootiology of Lyme disease, we compared their reservoir capacity for these pathogens to that of other sympatric hosts. Garden dormice are trapped most abundantly during early spring and again during midsummer, when their offspring forage. They are closely associated with moist forests. Garden dormice serve as hosts to nymphal ticks far more frequently than do other small mammals. Spirochetal infection is most prevalent in dormice, and many more larval ticks acquire infection in the course of feeding on these than on other rodents in the study site. Mature dormice appear to contribute more infections to the vector population than juveniles do. Replete larval ticks generally detach while their dormouse hosts remain within their nests. The population of garden dormice contributes five- to sevenfold more infections to the vector population than the mouse population does. Their competence, nymphal feeding density, and preference for a tick-permissive habitat combine to favor garden dormice over other putative reservoir hosts of Lyme disease spirochetes.
To determine whether prior exposure to Nearctic Ixodes vector ticks protects native reservoir mice from tick-borne infection by Lyme disease spirochetes, we compared their infectivities for white-footed mice and laboratory mice that had been repeatedly infested by noninfected deer ticks. Nymphal ticks readily engorged on tick-exposed laboratory mice, but their feeding success on white-footed mice progressively declined. Tick-borne spirochetes readily infected previously tick-infested mice. Thus, prior infestation by Nearctic ticks does not protect sympatric reservoir mice or Palearctic laboratory mice from infection by sympatric tick-borne spirochetes.
To define conditions promoting inherited infection by Lyme disease spirochetes in Ixodes ticks, we variously infected ticks with Borrelia afzelii and examined their progenies by dark-field microscopy, immunofluorescence, PCR, and serial passage. No episode of inherited infection was evident, regardless of instar or gender infected or frequency of exposure. We suggest that these spirochetes rarely, if ever, are inherited by vector ticks.
We determined whether the genospecies diversity of Lyme disease spirochetes in vector ticks questing on a subtropical island is as broad as that in Central Europe. Although spirochetes infected <1% of the ticks sampled on Madeira Island, these infections included all three genospecies implicated in human disease. Therefore, spirochetal diversity is as great at the southern margin as it is in the center of this pathogen’s range.