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1.  Inefficient co-feeding transmission of Borrelia afzelii in two common European songbirds 
Scientific Reports  2017;7:39596.
The spirochete bacterium Borrelia afzelii is the most common cause of Lyme borreliosis in Europe. This tick-borne pathogen can establish systemic infections in rodents but not in birds. However, several field studies have recovered larval Ixodes ricinus ticks infected with B. afzelii from songbirds suggesting successful transmission of B. afzelii. We reviewed the literature to determine which songbird species were the most frequent carriers of B. afzelii-infected I. ricinus larvae and nymphs. We tested experimentally whether B. afzelii is capable of co-feeding transmission on two common European bird species, the blackbird (Turdus merula) and the great tit (Parus major). For each bird species, four naïve individuals were infested with B. afzelii-infected I. ricinus nymphal ticks and pathogen-free larval ticks. None of the co-feeding larvae tested positive for B. afzelii in blackbirds, but a low percentage of infected larvae (3.33%) was observed in great tits. Transstadial transmission of B. afzelii DNA from the engorged nymphs to the adult ticks was observed in both bird species. However, BSK culture found that these spirochetes were not viable. Our study suggests that co-feeding transmission of B. afzelii is not efficient in these two songbird species.
PMCID: PMC5214756  PMID: 28054584
2.  Molecular Detection of Tick-Borne Pathogens in Humans with Tick Bites and Erythema Migrans, in the Netherlands 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(10):e0005042.
Tick-borne diseases are the most prevalent vector-borne diseases in Europe. Knowledge on the incidence and clinical presentation of other tick-borne diseases than Lyme borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis is minimal, despite the high human exposure to these pathogens through tick bites. Using molecular detection techniques, the frequency of tick-borne infections after exposure through tick bites was estimated.
Ticks, blood samples and questionnaires on health status were collected from patients that visited their general practitioner with a tick bite or erythema migrans in 2007 and 2008. The presence of several tick-borne pathogens in 314 ticks and 626 blood samples of this cohort were analyzed using PCR-based methods. Using multivariate logistic regression, associations were explored between pathogens detected in blood and self-reported symptoms at enrolment and during a three-month follow-up period.
Half of the ticks removed from humans tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Rickettsia helvetica, Rickettsia monacensis, Borrelia miyamotoi and several Babesia species. Among 92 Borrelia burgdorferi s. l. positive ticks, 33% carried another pathogen from a different genus. In blood of sixteen out of 626 persons with tick bites or erythema migrans, DNA was detected from Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (n = 7), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (n = 5), Babesia divergens (n = 3), Borrelia miyamotoi (n = 1) and Borrelia burgdorferi s. l. (n = 1). None of these sixteen individuals reported any overt symptoms that would indicate a corresponding illness during the three-month follow-up period. No associations were found between the presence of pathogen DNA in blood and; self-reported symptoms, with pathogen DNA in the corresponding ticks (n = 8), reported tick attachment duration, tick engorgement, or antibiotic treatment at enrolment.
Based on molecular detection techniques, the probability of infection with a tick-borne pathogen other than Lyme spirochetes after a tick bite is roughly 2.4%, in the Netherlands. Similarly, among patients with erythema migrans, the probability of a co-infection with another tick-borne pathogen is approximately 2.7%. How often these infections cause disease symptoms or to what extend co-infections affect the course of Lyme borreliosis needs further investigations.
Author Summary
Two most common tick-borne diseases in Europe are Lyme borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis. Ticks transmit many more pathogens, causing neglected diseases such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, rickettsiosis and neoehrlichiosis. These diseases are seldom diagnosed, due to their mild and non-characteristic symptoms, but also due to lack of awareness and availability of diagnostic tests. Using molecular detection techniques (polymerase chain reaction or PCR), we estimated the frequency of tick-borne infections in humans after a tick bite and in patients with the first symptoms of Lyme borreliosis, an erythema migrans. About half of the ticks that fed on humans carried one or more tick-borne pathogens, and approximately 2.5% of people that were bitten by ticks were infected with a tick-borne pathogen other than Lyme borreliosis or tick-borne encephalitis. Co-infections of a tick-borne pathogen in patients with an erythema migrans was also approximately 2.5%. Based on these findings, we estimated the incidence of tick-borne infections other than Lyme borreliosis in the Netherlands. How often these infections cause disease or to what extend co-infections affect the course of Lyme borreliosis needs further investigations.
PMCID: PMC5051699  PMID: 27706159
3.  Nested coevolutionary networks shape the ecological relationships of ticks, hosts, and the Lyme disease bacteria of the Borrelia burgdorferi (s.l.) complex 
Parasites & Vectors  2016;9:517.
The bacteria of the Borrelia burgdorferi (s.l.) (BBG) complex constitute a group of tick-transmitted pathogens that are linked to many vertebrate and tick species. The ecological relationships between the pathogens, the ticks and the vertebrate carriers have not been analysed. The aim of this study was to quantitatively analyse these interactions by creating a network based on a large dataset of associations. Specifically, we examined the relative positions of partners in the network, the phylogenetic diversity of the tick’s hosts and its impact on BBG circulation. The secondary aim was to evaluate the segregation of BBG strains in different vectors and reservoirs.
BBG circulates through a nested recursive network of ticks and vertebrates that delineate closed clusters. Each cluster contains generalist ticks with high values of centrality as well as specialist ticks that originate nested sub-networks and that link secondary vertebrates to the cluster. These results highlighted the importance of host phylogenetic diversity for ticks in the circulation of BBG, as this diversity was correlated with high centrality values for the ticks. The ticks and BBG species in each cluster were not significantly associated with specific branches of the phylogeny of host genera (R2 = 0.156, P = 0.784 for BBG; R2 = 0.299, P = 0.699 for ticks). A few host genera had higher centrality values and thus higher importance for BBG circulation. However, the combined contribution of hosts with low centrality values could maintain active BBG foci. The results suggested that ticks do not share strains of BBG, which were highly segregated among sympatric species of ticks.
We conclude that BBG circulation is supported by a highly redundant network. This network includes ticks with high centrality values and high host phylogenetic diversity as well as ticks with low centrality values. This promotes ecological sub-networks and reflects the high resilience of BBG circulation. The functional redundancy in BBG circulation reduces disturbances due to the removal of vertebrates as it allows ticks to fill other biotic niches.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-016-1803-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5035442  PMID: 27662832
Borrelia burgdorferi (s.l.); Ticks; Vertebrates; Ecological networks; Centrality; Phylogenetic diversity
4.  Dermacentor reticulatus: a vector on the rise 
Parasites & Vectors  2016;9:314.
Dermacentor reticulatus is a hard tick species with extraordinary biological features. It has a high reproduction rate, a rapid developmental cycle, and is also able to overcome years of unfavourable conditions. Dermacentor reticulatus can survive under water for several months and is cold-hardy even compared to other tick species. It has a wide host range: over 60 different wild and domesticated hosts are known for the three active developmental stages. Its high adaptiveness gives an edge to this tick species as shown by new data on the emergence and establishment of D. reticulatus populations throughout Europe. The tick has been the research focus of a growing number of scientists, physicians and veterinarians. Within the Web of Science database, more than a fifth of the over 700 items published on this species between 1897 and 2015 appeared in the last three years (2013–2015). Here we attempt to synthesize current knowledge on the systematics, ecology, geographical distribution and recent spread of the species and to highlight the great spectrum of possible veterinary and public health threats it poses. Canine babesiosis caused by Babesia canis is a severe leading canine vector-borne disease in many endemic areas. Although less frequently than Ixodes ricinus, D. reticulatus adults bite humans and transmit several Rickettsia spp., Omsk haemorrhagic fever virus or Tick-borne encephalitis virus. We have not solely collected and reviewed the latest and fundamental scientific papers available in primary databases but also widened our scope to books, theses, conference papers and specialists colleagues’ experience where needed. Besides the dominant literature available in English, we also tried to access scientific literature in German, Russian and eastern European languages as well. We hope to inspire future research projects that are necessary to understand the basic life-cycle and ecology of this vector in order to understand and prevent disease threats. We conclude that although great strides have been made in our knowledge of the eco-epidemiology of this species, several gaps still need to be filled with basic research, targeting possible reservoir and vector roles and the key factors resulting in the observed geographical spread of D. reticulatus.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-016-1599-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4888597  PMID: 27251148
Dermacentor reticulatus; Ecology; Geographical distribution; Spread; Epidemiology; Host associations; Europe; Asia; Babesia canis; Omsk haemorrhagic fever virus
5.  Molecular characterization of human Cryptosporidium spp. isolates after an unusual increase in late summer 2012 
Parasites & Vectors  2016;9:138.
During the late summer 2012, a number of medical microbiological laboratories (MMLs) reported an unusual increase in cases of cryptosporidiosis, a gastrointestinal infection caused by the protozoan parasites Cryptosporidium spp. Prompted by this signal, the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) started an epidemiological investigation into possible causes. Simultaneously, samples diagnosed at MMLs were sent to RIVM for genotyping, aiming to further identify the possible source of the increase.
Genotyping was performed by sequencing a fragment of the GP60 gene. Additional genotyping was performed on a subset of samples using six microsatellite markers. Population genetic analysis was performed using BEAST.
The majority of the samples were typed as C. hominis, and a single GP60 genotype (IbA10G2) largely predominated. Genotyping microsatellite markers further supported the circulation of a single genetic type. Population genetic analysis with genotypes found in previous years is inconsistent with a decrease in effective population size.
The conclusion of this finding is that the rise reflects more an overall increase and not a common source outbreak.
PMCID: PMC4785642  PMID: 26965442
Cryptosporidium; Parasite; GP60; Genotyping; Gastroenteritis; Population genetics
6.  Borrelia miyamotoi and Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis in Ixodes ricinus Ticks, Romania 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2016;22(3):550-551.
PMCID: PMC4766875  PMID: 26889789
Borrelia miyamotoi; Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; bacteria; Ixodes ricinus; ticks; vector-borne infections; tickborne infections; questing; circulation; Romania
7.  Larvae of Ixodes ricinus transmit Borrelia afzelii and B. miyamotoi to vertebrate hosts 
Parasites & Vectors  2016;9:97.
Lyme borreliosis is the most common tick-borne human disease and is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.). Borrelia miyamotoi, a relapsing fever spirochaete, is transmitted transovarially, whereas this has not been shown for B. burgdorferi (s.l). Therefore, B. burgdorferi (s.l) is considered to cycle from nymphs to larvae through vertebrates. Larvae of Ixodes ricinus are occasionally B. burgdorferi (s.l) infected, but their vector competence has never been studied.
We challenged 20 laboratory mice with field-collected larvae of I. ricinus. A subset of these larvae was analysed for infections with B. burgdorferi (s.l) and B. miyamotoi. After three to four challenges, mice were sacrificed and skin and spleen samples were analysed for infection by PCR and culture.
Field-collected larvae were naturally infected with B. burgdorferi (s.l) (0.62 %) and B. miyamotoi (2.0 %). Two mice acquired a B. afzelii infection and four mice acquired a B. miyamotoi infection during the larval challenges.
We showed that larvae of I. ricinus transmit B. afzelii and B. miyamotoi to rodents and calculated that rodents have a considerable chance of acquiring infections from larvae compared to nymphs. As a result, B. afzelii can cycle between larvae through rodents. Our findings further imply that larval bites on humans, which easily go unnoticed, can cause Lyme borreliosis and Borrelia miyamotoi disease.
PMCID: PMC4761128  PMID: 26896940
Ixodes ricinus; Larva; Borrelia burgdorferi; Borrelia miyamotoi; Transmission; Infection; Vector; Tick; Rodent
8.  Multi-trophic interactions driving the transmission cycle of Borrelia afzelii between Ixodes ricinus and rodents: a review 
Parasites & Vectors  2015;8:643.
The tick Ixodes ricinus is the main vector of the spirochaete Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the causal agent of Lyme borreliosis, in the western Palearctic. Rodents are the reservoir host of B. afzelii, which can be transmitted to I. ricinus larvae during a blood meal. The infected engorged larvae moult into infected nymphs, which can transmit the spirochaetes to rodents and humans. Interestingly, even though only about 1 % of the larvae develop into a borreliae-infected nymph, the enzootic borreliae lifecycle can persist. The development from larva to infected nymph is a key aspect in this lifecycle, influencing the density of infected nymphs and thereby Lyme borreliosis risk. The density of infected nymphs varies temporally and geographically and is influenced by multi-trophic (tick-host-borreliae) interactions. For example, blood feeding success of ticks and spirochaete transmission success differ between rodent species and host-finding success appears to be affected by a B. afzelii infection in both the rodent and the tick. In this paper, we review the major interactions between I. ricinus, rodents and B. afzelii that influence this development, with the aim to elucidate the critical factors that determine the epidemiological risk of Lyme borreliosis. The effects of the tick, rodent and B. afzelii on larval host finding, larval blood feeding, spirochaete transmission from rodent to larva and development from larva to nymph are discussed. Nymphal host finding, nymphal blood feeding and spirochaete transmission from nymph to rodent are the final steps to complete the enzootic B. afzelii lifecycle and are included in the review. It is concluded that rodent density, rodent infection prevalence, and tick burden are the major factors affecting the development from larva to infected nymph and that these interact with each other. We suggest that the B. afzelii lifecycle is dependent on the aggregation of ticks among rodents, which is manipulated by the pathogen itself. Better understanding of the processes involved in the development and aggregation of ticks results in more precise estimates of the density of infected nymphs, and hence predictions of Lyme borreliosis risk.
PMCID: PMC4684625  PMID: 26684199
Ixodes ricinus; Borrelia burgdorferi; Trophic interactions; Ecology; Lifecycle; Apodemus; Myodes; Pathogen transmission
9.  Probability of Spirochete Borrelia miyamotoi Transmission from Ticks to Humans 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2015;21(12):2273-2274.
PMCID: PMC4672439  PMID: 26584357
Borrelia infections; disease transmission; infectious; Ixodes; bites and stings; Russia; vector-borne infections; ticks; Borrelia miyamotoi
10.  Virulence of recurrent infestations with Borrelia-infected ticks in a Borrelia-amplifying bird 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:16150.
Lyme disease cases caused by Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. bacteria is increasing steadily in Europe, in part due to the expansion of the vector, Ixodes ricinus. Wild reservoir hosts are typically recurrently infested. Understanding the impact of these cumulative parasite exposures on the host’s health is, therefore, central to predict the distribution of tick populations and their pathogens. Here, we have experimentally investigated the symptoms of disease caused by recurrent infestations in a common songbird (Parus major). Birds were exposed three times in succession to ticks collected in a Borrelia endemic area. Health and immune measures were analyzed in order to investigate changes in response to tick infestation and Borrelia infection rate. Nitric oxide levels increased with the Borrelia infection rate, but this effect was increasingly counteracted by mounting tick infestation rates. Tick infestations equally reduced haematocrit during each cycle. But birds overcompensated in their response to tick feeding, having higher haematocrit values during tick-free periods depending on the number of ticks they had been previously exposed to. Body condition showed a similar overshooting response in function of the severity of the Borrelia infection. The observed overcompensation increases the bird’s energetic needs, which may result in an increase in transmission events.
PMCID: PMC4639849  PMID: 26553505
11.  Screening of bat faeces for arthropod-borne apicomplexan protozoa: Babesia canis and Besnoitia besnoiti-like sequences from Chiroptera 
Parasites & Vectors  2015;8:441.
Bats are among the most eco-epidemiologically important mammals, owing to their presence in human settlements and animal keeping facilities. Roosting of bats in buildings may bring pathogens of veterinary-medical importance into the environment of domestic animals and humans. In this context bats have long been studied as carriers of various pathogen groups. However, despite their close association with arthropods (both in their food and as their ectoparasites), only a few molecular surveys have been published on their role as carriers of vector-borne protozoa. The aim of the present study was to compensate for this scarcity of information.
Altogether 221 (mostly individual) bat faecal samples were collected in Hungary and the Netherlands. The DNA was extracted, and analysed with PCR and sequencing for the presence of arthropod-borne apicomplexan protozoa. Babesia canis canis (with 99-100 % homology) was identified in five samples, all from Hungary. Because it was excluded with an Ixodidae-specific PCR that the relevant bats consumed ticks, these sequences derive either from insect carriers of Ba. canis, or from the infection of bats. In one bat faecal sample from the Netherlands a sequence having the highest (99 %) homology to Besnoitia besnoiti was amplified.
These findings suggest that some aspects of the epidemiology of canine babesiosis are underestimated or unknown, i.e. the potential role of insect-borne mechanical transmission and/or the susceptibility of bats to Ba. canis. In addition, bats need to be added to future studies in the quest for the final host of Be. besnoiti.
PMCID: PMC4552134  PMID: 26315069
Vector-borne; Chiroptera; Faecal DNA; Apicomplexa; Dermacentor; Stomoxys
12.  Eco-epidemiology of Borrelia miyamotoi and Lyme borreliosis spirochetes in a popular hunting and recreational forest area in Hungary 
Parasites & Vectors  2015;8:309.
Borrelia miyamotoi, the newly discovered human pathogenic relapsing fever spirochete, and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato are maintained in natural rodent populations. The aim of this study was to investigate the natural cycle of B. miyamotoi and B. burgdorferi s.l. in a forest habitat with intensive hunting, forestry work and recreational activity in Southern Hungary.
We collected rodents with modified Sherman-traps during 2010–2013 and questing ticks with flagging in 2012. Small mammals were euthanized, tissue samples were collected and all ectoparasites were removed and stored. Samples were screened for pathogens with multiplex quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) targeting a part of flagellin gene, then analysed with conventional PCRs and sequencing.
177 spleen and 348 skin samples of six rodent species were individually analysed. Prevalence in rodent tissue samples was 0.2 % (skin) and 0.5 % (spleen) for B. miyamotoi and 6.6 % (skin) and 2.2 % (spleen) for B. burgdorferi s.l. Relapsing fever spirochetes were detected in Apodemus flavicollis males, B. burgdorferi s.l. in Apodemus spp. and Myodes glareolus samples. Borrelia miyamotoi was detected in one questing Ixodes ricinus nymph and B. burgdorferi s.l in nymphs and adults. In the ticks removed from rodents DNA amplification of both pathogens was successful from I. ricinus larvae (B. miyamotoi 5.6 %, B. burgdorferi s.l. 11.1 %) and one out of five nymphs while from Ixodes acuminatus larvae, and nymph only B. burgdorferi s.l. DNA was amplified. Sequencing revealed B. lusitaniae in a questing I. ricinus nymph and altogether 17 B. afzelii were identified in other samples. Two Dermacentor marginatus engorged larva pools originating from uninfected hosts were also infected with B. afzelii.
This is the first report of B. miyamotoi occurrence in a natural population of A. flavicollis as well as in Hungary. We provide new data about circulation of B. burgdorferi s.l. in rodent and tick communities including the role of I. acuminatus ticks in the endophilic pathogen cycle. Our results highlight the possible risk of infection with relapsing fever and Lyme borreliosis spirochetes in forest habitats especially in the high-risk groups of hunters, forestry workers and hikers.
PMCID: PMC4458039  PMID: 26048373
Borrelia miyamotoi; Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; Ticks; Ixodes acuminatus; Rodents; Apodemus flavicollis; Endophilic pathogen cycle; Hunters; Hungary
13.  Hypothesis: Cryptosporidium genetic diversity mirrors national disease notification rate 
Parasites & Vectors  2015;8:308.
Cryptosporidiosis is a gastrointestinal disease affecting many people worldwide. Disease incidence is often unknown and surveillance of human cryptosporidiosis is installed in only a handful of developed countries. A genetic marker that mirrors disease incidence is potentially a powerful tool for monitoring the two primary human infected species of Cryptosporidium.
We used the molecular epidemiological database with Cryptosporidium isolates from ZoopNet, which currently contains more than 1400 records with their sampling nations, and the names of the host species from which the isolates were obtained. Based on 296 C. hominis and 195 C. parvum GP60 sequences from human origin, the genetic diversities of Cryptosporidium was estimated for several nations. Notified cases of human cryptosporidiosis were collected from statistics databases for only four nations.
Genetic diversities of C. hominis were estimated in 10 nations in 5 continents, and that of C. parvum of human origin were estimated in 15 nations. Correlation with reported incidence of human cryptosporidiosis in four nations (the Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom and Australia) was positive and significant. A linear model for testing the relationship between the genetic diversity and incidence produced a significantly positive estimate for the slope (P-value < 0.05).
The hypothesis that genetic diversity at GP60 locus mirrors notification rates of human cryptosporidiosis was not rejected based on the data presented. Genetic diversity of C. hominis and C. parvum may therefore be an independent and complementary measure for quantifying disease incidence, for which only a moderate number of stool samples from each nation are sufficient data input.
PMCID: PMC4460647  PMID: 26048280
Cryptosporidium hominis; Cryptosporidium parvum; GP60; Population genetics; Molecular epidemiology
14.  Presence of zoonotic agents in engorged ticks and hedgehog faeces from Erinaceus europaeus in (sub) urban areas 
Parasites & Vectors  2015;8:210.
European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) are hosts for Ixodes hexagonus and I. ricinus ticks, which are vectors for zoonotic microorganisms. In addition, hedgehogs may carry several enteric zoonoses as well. It is unclear to what extent a presence of pathogens in hedgehogs poses a risk to public health, as information on the presence of zoonotic agents in hedgehogs in urban areas is relatively scarce.
Engorged ticks and hedgehog faeces were collected from rehabilitating hedgehogs. Ticks were screened individually for presence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, B. miyamotoi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis using PCR-based assays. Faecal samples were screened for presence of Campylobacter, Salmonella, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and extended-spectrum cephalosporin-resistant-Escherichia coli (ESC)-resistant E. coli, using both culture-based and PCR-based methods.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Borrelia genospecies B. afzelii, B. spielmanii, B. garinii, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto were detected in both I. hexagonus and I. ricinus ticks. Despite their widespread distribution in the Netherlands, B. miyamotoi and Candidatus N. mikurensis were not detected in collected ticks. Analysis of hedgehog faecal samples revealed the presence of Salmonella enterica subspecies enterica and Campylobacter jejuni. In addition, ESC-resistant E. coli were observed in high prevalence in faecal samples, but no Shiga-toxin producing-E.coli were detected. Finally, potentially zoonotic protozoan parasites were observed in hedgehog faecal samples as well, including Giardia duodenalis assemblage A, Cryptosporidium parvum subtypes IIaA17G1R1 and IIcA5G3, and C. hominis subtype IbA10G2.
European hedgehogs in (sub)urban areas harbor a number of zoonotic agents, and therefore may contribute to the spread and transmission of zoonotic diseases. The relatively high prevalence of B. burgdorferi s.l. and A. phagocytophilum in engorged ticks, suggests that hedgehogs contribute to their enzootic cycles in (sub)urban areas. To what extent can hedgehogs maintain the enteric zoonotic agents in natural cycles, and the role of (spill-back from) humans remains to be investigated.
PMCID: PMC4406014  PMID: 25885888
Hedgehogs; Ticks; Zoonoses; Borrelia; Anaplasma; Campylobacter; Salmonella; Antibiotic resistance; Giardia; Cryptosporidium
15.  Vertical transmission of Bartonella schoenbuchensis in Lipoptena cervi 
Parasites & Vectors  2015;8:176.
Lipoptena cervi (Diptera: Hippoboscidae) is a hematophagous ectoparasite of cervids, which is considered to transmit pathogens between animals and occasionally to humans. The principal life stage that is able to parasitize new hosts is a winged ked that just emerged from a pupa. To facilitate efficient transmission of pathogens between hosts, vertical transmission from female deer keds to their offspring is necessary. We investigated vertical transmission of several vector-borne pathogens associated with cervids.
Deer keds from several locations in Hungary were collected between 2009 and 2012. All life stages were represented: winged free-ranging adults, wingless adults collected from Capreolus capreolus and Cervus elaphus, developing larvae dissected from gravid females, and fully developed pupae. The presence of zoonotic pathogens was determined using qPCR or conventional PCR assays performed on DNA lysates. From the PCR-positive lysates, a gene fragment was amplified and sequenced for confirmation of pathogen presence, and/or pathogen species identification.
DNA of Bartonella schoenbuchensis was found in wingless males (2%) and females (2%) obtained from Cervus elaphus, dissected developing larvae (71%), and free-ranging winged males (2%) and females (11%). DNA of Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Rickettsia species was present in L. cervi adults, but not in immature stages. DNA of Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis was absent in any of the life stages of L. cervi.
B. schoenbuchensis is transmitted from wingless adult females to developing larvae, making it very likely that L. cervi is a vector for B. schoenbuchensis. Lipoptena cervi is probably not a vector for A. phagocytophilum, Rickettsia species, and Candidatus N. mikurensis.
PMCID: PMC4374187  PMID: 25889985
Lipoptena cervi; Deer ked; Pathogen; Vector; Anaplasma; Bartonella; Rickettsia; Ixodes ricinus
16.  Transstadial Transmission of Borrelia turcica in Hyalomma aegyptium Ticks 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0115520.
Borrelia turcica comprises the third major group of arthropod-transmitted borreliae and is phylogenetically divergent from other Borrelia groups. The novel group of Borrelia was initially isolated from Hyalomma aegyptium ticks in Turkey and it was recently found in blood and multiple organs of tortoises exported from Jordan to Japan. However, the ecology of these spirochetes and their development in ticks or the vertebrate hosts were not investigated in detail; our aims were to isolate the pathogen and to evaluate the possibility of transstadial transmission of Borrelia turcica by H. aegyptium ticks. Ticks were collected from Testudo graeca tortoises during the summer of 2013 from southeastern Romania. Engorged nymphs were successfully molted to the adult stage. Alive B. turcica was isolated from molted ticks by using Barbour-Stoenner-Kelly (BSK) II medium. Four pure cultures of spirochetes were obtained and analyzed by PCR and sequencing. Sequence analysis of glpQ, gyrB and flaB revealed 98%–100% similarities with B. turcica. H. aegyptium ticks collected from T. graeca tortoises were able to pass the infection with B. turcica via transstadial route, suggesting its vectorial capacity.
PMCID: PMC4335052  PMID: 25695663
17.  Vector-Borne Disease Intelligence: Strategies to Deal with Disease Burden and Threats 
Owing to the complex nature of vector-borne diseases (VBDs), whereby monitoring of human case patients does not suffice, public health authorities experience challenges in surveillance and control of VBDs. Knowledge on the presence and distribution of vectors and the pathogens that they transmit is vital to the risk assessment process to permit effective early warning, surveillance, and control of VBDs. Upon accepting this reality, public health authorities face an ever-increasing range of possible surveillance targets and an associated prioritization process. Here, we propose a comprehensive approach that integrates three surveillance strategies: population-based surveillance, disease-based surveillance, and context-based surveillance for EU member states to tailor the best surveillance strategy for control of VBDs in their geographic region. By classifying the surveillance structure into five different contexts, we hope to provide guidance in optimizing surveillance efforts. Contextual surveillance strategies for VBDs entail combining organization and data collection approaches that result in disease intelligence rather than a preset static structure.
PMCID: PMC4273637  PMID: 25566522
vector-borne diseases; surveillance; one health; disease burden; threat; emerging diseases
18.  Predicting Tick Presence by Environmental Risk Mapping 
Public health statistics recorded an increasing trend in the incidence of tick bites and erythema migrans (EM) in the Netherlands. We investigated whether the disease incidence could be predicted by a spatially explicit categorization model, based on environmental factors and a training set of tick absence–presence data. Presence and absence of Ixodes ricinus were determined by the blanket-dragging method at numerous sites spread over the Netherlands. The probability of tick presence on a 1 km by 1 km square grid was estimated from the field data using a satellite-based methodology. Expert elicitation was conducted to provide a Bayesian prior per landscape type. We applied a linear model to test for a linear relationship between incidence of EM consultations by general practitioners in the Netherlands and the estimated probability of tick presence. Ticks were present at 252 distinct sampling coordinates and absent at 425. Tick presence was estimated for 54% of the total land cover. Our model has predictive power for tick presence in the Netherlands, tick-bite incidence per municipality correlated significantly with the average probability of tick presence per grid. The estimated intercept of the linear model was positive and significant. This indicates that a significant fraction of the tick-bite consultations could be attributed to the I. ricinus population outside the resident municipality.
PMCID: PMC4244977  PMID: 25505781
lyme; risk mapping; ticks; Borrelia
19.  Circulation of four Anaplasma phagocytophilum ecotypes in Europe 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7:365.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the etiological agent of granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans and animals. Wild animals and ticks play key roles in the enzootic cycles of the pathogen. Potential ecotypes of A. phagocytophilum have been characterized genetically, but their host range, zoonotic potential and transmission dynamics has only incompletely been resolved.
The presence of A. phagocytophilum DNA was determined in more than 6000 ixodid ticks collected from the vegetation and wildlife, in 289 tissue samples from wild and domestic animals, and 69 keds collected from deer, originating from various geographic locations in The Netherlands and Belgium. From the qPCR-positive lysates, a fragment of the groEL-gene was amplified and sequenced. Additional groEL sequences from ticks and animals from Europe were obtained from GenBank, and sequences from human cases were obtained through literature searches. Statistical analyses were performed to identify A. phagocytophilum ecotypes, to assess their host range and their zoonotic potential. The population dynamics of A. phagocytophilum ecotypes was investigated using population genetic analyses.
DNA of A. phagocytophilum was present in all stages of questing and feeding Ixodes ricinus, feeding I. hexagonus, I. frontalis, I. trianguliceps, and deer keds, but was absent in questing I. arboricola and Dermacentor reticulatus. DNA of A. phagocytophilum was present in feeding ticks and tissues from many vertebrates, including roe deer, mouflon, red foxes, wild boar, sheep and hedgehogs but was rarely found in rodents and birds and was absent in badgers and lizards. Four geographically dispersed A. phagocytophilum ecotypes were identified, that had significantly different host ranges. All sequences from human cases belonged to only one of these ecotypes. Based on population genetic parameters, the potentially zoonotic ecotype showed significant expansion.
Four ecotypes of A. phagocytophilum with differential enzootic cycles were identified. So far, all human cases clustered in only one of these ecotypes. The zoonotic ecotype has the broadest range of wildlife hosts. The expansion of the zoonotic A. phagocytophilum ecotype indicates a recent increase of the acarological risk of exposure of humans and animals.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-365) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4153903  PMID: 25127547
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Zoonoses; Ixodes ricinus; Wildlife; Epidemiology
20.  Tick-Borne Pathogen – Reversed and Conventional Discovery of Disease 
Molecular methods have increased the number of known microorganisms associated with ticks significantly. Some of these newly identified microorganisms are readily linked to human disease while others are yet unknown to cause human disease. The face of tick-borne disease discovery has changed with more diseases now being discovered in a “reversed way,” detecting disease cases only years after the tick-borne microorganism was first discovered. Compared to the conventional discovery of infectious diseases, reverse order discovery presents researchers with new challenges. Estimating public health risks of such agents is especially challenging, as case definitions and diagnostic procedures may initially be missing. We discuss the advantages and shortcomings of molecular methods, serology, and epidemiological studies that might be used to study some fundamental questions regarding newly identified tick-borne diseases. With increased tick-exposure and improved detection methods, more tick-borne microorganisms will be added to the list of pathogens causing disease in humans in the future.
PMCID: PMC4083466  PMID: 25072045
tick-borne pathogens; public health; Rickettsia; Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Ixodes ricinus; Borrelia miyamotoi; emerging diseases
21.  Human Exposure to Tickborne Relapsing Fever Spirochete Borrelia miyamotoi, the Netherlands 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(7):1244-1246.
PMCID: PMC4073841  PMID: 24963562
Tickborne diseases; zoonoses; relapsing fever; Lyme disease; Borrelia; borreliosis; miyamotoi; B. burgdorferi sensu lato; the Netherlands
23.  Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in Urban Hedgehogs 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(3):496-498.
PMCID: PMC3944844  PMID: 24565170
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; bacteria; northern white-breasted hedgehog; hedgehog; Erinaceus roumanicus; Ixodes ricinus; ticks; city park; urban hedgehog; Budapest; Hungary; Europe
24.  ANTIDotE: anti-tick vaccines to prevent tick-borne diseases in Europe 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7:77.
Ixodes ricinus transmits bacterial, protozoal and viral pathogens, causing disease and forming an increasing health concern in Europe. ANTIDotE is an European Commission funded consortium of seven institutes, which aims to identify and characterize tick proteins involved in feeding and pathogen transmission. The knowledge gained will be used to develop and evaluate anti-tick vaccines that may prevent multiple human tick-borne diseases. Strategies encompassing anti-tick vaccines to prevent transmission of pathogens to humans, animals or wildlife will be developed with relevant stakeholders with the ultimate aim of reducing the incidence of tick-borne diseases in humans.
PMCID: PMC3933510  PMID: 24559082
Ixodes ricinus; Vaccine; Lyme borreliosis; Tick-borne encephalitis; Babesiosis; Public health
25.  High-throughput screening of tick-borne pathogens in Europe 
Due to increased travel, climatic, and environmental changes, the incidence of tick-borne disease in both humans and animals is increasing throughout Europe. Therefore, extended surveillance tools are desirable. To accurately screen tick-borne pathogens (TBPs), a large scale epidemiological study was conducted on 7050 Ixodes ricinus nymphs collected from France, Denmark, and the Netherlands using a powerful new high-throughput approach. This advanced methodology permitted the simultaneous detection of 25 bacterial, and 12 parasitic species (including; Borrelia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Rickettsia, Bartonella, Candidatus Neoehrlichia, Coxiella, Francisella, Babesia, and Theileria genus) across 94 samples. We successfully determined the prevalence of expected (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Rickettsia helvetica, Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Babesia divergens, Babesia venatorum), unexpected (Borrelia miyamotoi), and rare (Bartonella henselae) pathogens in the three European countries. Moreover we detected Borrelia spielmanii, Borrelia miyamotoi, Babesia divergens, and Babesia venatorum for the first time in Danish ticks. This surveillance method represents a major improvement in epidemiological studies, able to facilitate comprehensive testing of TBPs, and which can also be customized to monitor emerging diseases.
PMCID: PMC4114295  PMID: 25120960
tick borne diseases; molecular epidemiology; surveillance; Europe; microfluidic analyses

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