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1.  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
2.  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
3.  Circulation of four Anaplasma phagocytophilum ecotypes in Europe 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7(1):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
4.  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
5.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Climate Change and Public Health Policy: Translating the Science  
Public health authorities are required to prepare for future threats and need predictions of the likely impact of climate change on public health risks. They may get overwhelmed by the volume of heterogeneous information in scientific articles and risk relying purely on the public opinion articles which focus mainly on global warming trends, and leave out many other relevant factors. In the current paper, we discuss various scientific approaches investigating climate change and its possible impact on public health and discuss their different roles and functions in unraveling the complexity of the subject. It is not our objective to review the available literature or to make predictions for certain diseases or countries, but rather to evaluate the applicability of scientific research articles on climate change to evidence-based public health decisions. In the context of mosquito borne diseases, we identify common pitfalls to watch out for when assessing scientific research on the impact of climate change on human health. We aim to provide guidance through the plethora of scientific papers and views on the impact of climate change on human health to those new to the subject, as well as to remind public health experts of its multifactorial and multidisciplinary character.
PMCID: PMC3924434  PMID: 24452252
climate change; public health; scientific evidence; pitfalls; mosquito borne diseases
10.  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
11.  Co-infection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Rickettsia species in ticks and in an erythema migrans patient 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:347.
Lyme borreliosis is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in Europe. Ixodes ricinus also carries other pathogenic bacteria, but corresponding human diseases are rarely reported. Here, we compared the exposure to Rickettsia helvetica and Rickettsia monacensis with that to Lyme borreliosis spirochetes. We assumed that their exposure corresponds to their infection rate in questing I. ricinus.
Three Rickettsia species were detected in ticks with a total prevalence of 7.9%, of which the majority was R. helvetica (78%) and R. monacensis (21%). From the same geographic area, skin biopsies of erythema migrans patients were investigated for possible co-infections with Rickettsia spp.. Forty-seven out of 67 skin biopsies were PCR positive for Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. and one sample was positive for R. monacensis. The Borrelia genospecies from the R. monacensis positive patient was identified as Borrelia afzelii. The patient did not show any symptoms associated with rickettsiosis.
Co-infections of I. ricinus with Rickettsia spp. and B. burgdorferi s.l. were as high as expected from the individual prevalence of both pathogens. Co-infection rate in erythema migrans patients corresponded well with tick infection rates. To our knowledge, this is the first reported co-infection of B. afzelii and R. monacensis.
PMCID: PMC3878868  PMID: 24326096
Borrelia burgdorferi; Rickettsia monacensis; Rickettsia helvetica; Erythema migrans; Co-infection
12.  Sensitivity of a point of care tick-test for the development of Lyme borreliosis 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:338.
A commercially available self-test for the detection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in ticks was evaluated for its ability to predict erythema migrans formation.
The self-test was performed on 127 Ixodes ricinus from 122 humans that reported tick bites at enrolment and occurrence of symptoms during follow-up. The self-test gave negative results on all the 122 individuals, 14 of whom reported erythema migrans (EM) at follow-up of which 10 were confirmed by their GP. The estimated sensitivity of the self-test for prediction of EM formation is 0% (95% CI: 0%-28%).
This self-test is not suitable for reducing the number needed to treat in a post-exposure prophylaxis setting as it already missed all the obvious early Lyme borreliosis cases.
PMCID: PMC4235040  PMID: 24304944
Lyme borreliosis; Self-test; Ixodes ricinus; Validation; Post-exposure prophylaxis
13.  Spotted fever group rickettsiae in Dermacentor reticulatus and Haemaphysalis punctata ticks in the UK 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:212.
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.
PMCID: PMC3725166  PMID: 23870197
Haemaphysalis; Rickettsia massiliae; UK; Dermacentor; Rickettsiae; Ticks
14.  A Prospective Study among Patients Presenting at the General Practitioner with a Tick Bite or Erythema Migrans in the Netherlands 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64361.
We performed a nationwide prospective study on the transmission risk for Borrelia to humans, investigating symptoms and serology at enrolment and three months after tick bites, and after standard treatment for erythema migrans (EM). Aiming to quantify the infection risk at point of care by physicians, we explored risk factors such as tick testing for Borrelia and assessment of the duration of the tick's blood meal.
Methods and Findings
Questionnaires, blood samples and ticks from patients who consulted one of 307 general practitioners for tick bites (n = 327) or EM (n = 283) in 2007 and 2008, were collected at enrolment and three months later at follow-up. Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato DNA was detected in 29.3% of 314 ticks, using PCR/reverse line blot and real-time PCR on the OspA gene. Seroconversion in C6 ELISA, IgM or IgG immunoblots for Borrelia-specific antibodies was observed in 3.2% of tick bite cases. Fourteen tick bite cases had evidence of early Borrelia infection, of which EM developed among seven cases. The risk of developing EM after tick bites was 2.6% (95%CI: 1.1%–5.0%), and the risk of either EM or seroconversion was 5.1% (95%CI: 2.9%–8.2%). Participants with Borrelia-positive ticks had a significantly higher risk of either EM or seroconversion (odds ratio 4.8, 95%CI: 1.1–20.4), and of seroconversion alone (odds ratio 11.1, 95%CI: 1.1–108.9). A third (34%) of the cases enrolled with EM did not recall preceding tick bites. Three EM cases (1%) reported persisting symptoms, three months after standard antibiotic treatment for EM.
One out of forty participants developed EM within three months after tick bites. The infection risk can be assessed by tick testing for Borrelia at point of care by physicians. However, further refining is needed considering sensitivity and specificity of tick tests, accuracy of tick attachment time and engorgement.
PMCID: PMC3655959  PMID: 23696884
15.  Ability to cause erythema migrans differs between Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato isolates 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:23.
Lyme borreliosis is a tick-borne disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. The variety of characteristic and non-specific clinical manifestations is partially explained by its genetic diversity. We investigated the ability of B. burgdorferi sl isolates to cause erythema migrans.
The genetic constellation of isolates from ticks was compared to isolates found in erythema migrans. PCR and sequence analysis was performed on the plasmid-encoded ospC and the chromosomal 5S-23S rDNA spacer region (IGS).
Seven different B. burgdorferi sl genospecies were identified in 152 borrelia isolates from ticks and erythema migrans biopsies. B afzelii (51%) and B. garinii (27%) were the most common in ticks. From the 44 sequences obtained from erythema migrans samples 42 were B. afzelii, one B. garinii and one B. bavariensis. Significant associations with erythema migrans formation were found for four IGS and two ospC types. Five from 45 ospC types were associated with more than one genospecies.
B. burgdorferi sl isolates differ in their propensity to cause erythema migrans. These differences were also found within genospecies. In other words, although B. afzelii was mostly associated with erythema migrans, some B. afzelii isolates had a low ability to cause erythema migrans. Our data further support the occurrence of plasmid exchange between borrelia genospecies under natural conditions.
PMCID: PMC3599126  PMID: 23339549
Lyme borreliosis; Erythema migrans; Molecular epidemiology; Virulence marker
16.  Driving forces for changes in geographical distribution of Ixodes ricinus ticks in Europe 
Many factors are involved in determining the latitudinal and altitudinal spread of the important tick vector Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae) in Europe, as well as in changes in the distribution within its prior endemic zones. This paper builds on published literature and unpublished expert opinion from the VBORNET network with the aim of reviewing the evidence for these changes in Europe and discusses the many climatic, ecological, landscape and anthropogenic drivers. These can be divided into those directly related to climatic change, contributing to an expansion in the tick’s geographic range at extremes of altitude in central Europe, and at extremes of latitude in Scandinavia; those related to changes in the distribution of tick hosts, particularly roe deer and other cervids; other ecological changes such as habitat connectivity and changes in land management; and finally, anthropogenically induced changes. These factors are strongly interlinked and often not well quantified. Although a change in climate plays an important role in certain geographic regions, for much of Europe it is non-climatic factors that are becoming increasingly important. How we manage habitats on a landscape scale, and the changes in the distribution and abundance of tick hosts are important considerations during our assessment and management of the public health risks associated with ticks and tick-borne disease issues in 21st century Europe. Better understanding and mapping of the spread of I. ricinus (and changes in its abundance) is, however, essential to assess the risk of the spread of infections transmitted by this vector species. Enhanced tick surveillance with harmonized approaches for comparison of data enabling the follow-up of trends at EU level will improve the messages on risk related to tick-borne diseases to policy makers, other stake holders and to the general public.
PMCID: PMC3549795  PMID: 23281838
Tick; Ixodes; Europe; Distribution; Climate; Ecology; Surveillance; Tick-borne disease
17.  Spatiotemporal dynamics of emerging pathogens in questing Ixodes ricinus 
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.
PMCID: PMC3726834  PMID: 23908971
vector-borne disease; Borrelia burgdorferi; Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Rickettsia helvetica; Rickettsia conorii; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Babesia; Ixodes ricinus
18.  Circumstantial evidence for an increase in the total number and activity of borrelia-infected ixodes ricinus in the Netherlands 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:294.
Between 1994 and 2009, a threefold increase has been observed in consultations of general practitioners for tick bites and Lyme disease in The Netherlands. The objective of this study was to determine whether an increase in the number of questing ticks infected with B. burgdorferi sensu lato is a potential cause of the rise in Lyme disease incidence.
Historic data on land usage, temperature and wildlife populations were collected and analyzed together with data from two longitudinal field studies on density of questing ticks. Effective population sizes of Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. were calculated.
Long-term trend analyses indicated that the length of the annual tick questing season increased as well as the surface area of tick-suitable habitats in The Netherlands. The overall abundances of feeding and reproductive hosts also increased. Mathematical analysis of the data from the field studies demonstrated an increase in mean densities/activities of questing ticks, particularly of larvae between 2006 and 2009. No increase in infection rate of ticks with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was found. Population genetic analysis of the collected Borrelia species points to an increase in B. afzelii and B. garinii populations.
Together, these findings indicate an increase in the total number of Borrelia-infected ticks, providing circumstantial evidence for an increase in the risk of acquiring a bite of a tick infected with B. burgdorferi s.l. Due to the high spatiotemporal variation of tick densities/activities, long-term longitudinal studies on population dynamics of I. ricinus are necessary to observe significant trends.
PMCID: PMC3562265  PMID: 23244453
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; Ixodes ricinus; Population dynamics; Lyme disease; The Netherlands
19.  Population-based analyses of Giardia duodenalis is consistent with the clonal assemblage structure 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:168.
Giardia duodenalis is a common protozoan parasite of humans and animals. Genetic characterization of single loci indicates the existence of eight groups called assemblages, which differ in their host distribution. Molecular analyses challenged the idea that G. duodenalis is a strictly clonal diplomonad by providing evidence of recombination within and between assemblages. Particularly, inter-assemblage recombination events would complicate the interpretation of multi-locus genotyping data from field isolates: where is a host infected with multiple Giardia genotypes or with a single, recombined Giardia genotype.
Population genetic analyses on the single and multiple-locus level on an extensive dataset of G. duodenalis isolates from humans and animals were performed.
Our analyses indicate that recombination between isolates from different assemblages are apparently very rare or absent in the natural population of Giardia duodenalis. At the multi-locus level, our statistical analyses are more congruent with clonal reproduction and can equally well be explained with the presence of multiple G. duodenalis genotypes within one field isolate.
We conclude that recombination between G. duodenalis assemblages is either very rare or absent. Recombination between genotypes from the same assemblage and genetic exchange between the nuclei of a single cyst needs further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3431248  PMID: 22882997
Giardia lamblia; Giardia intestinalis; Giardia duodenalis; Genetic recombination; Population genetics
20.  Prevalence of Neoehrlichia mikurensis in ticks and rodents from North-west Europe 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:74.
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.
PMCID: PMC3395572  PMID: 22515314
Vector-borne disease; Emerging zoonoses; Candidatus N. mikurensis; I. ricinus; Anaplasma phagocytophylum
21.  Parasites of vectors - Ixodiphagus hookeri and its Wolbachia symbionts in ticks in the Netherlands 
Parasites & Vectors  2011;4:228.
Ixodiphagus hookeri is a parasitic wasp of ixodid ticks around the world. It has been studied as a potential bio-control agent for several tick species. We suspected that the presence of Wolbachia infected I. hookeri eggs in ticks is responsible for incidental detection of Wolbachia DNA in tick samples.
The 28S rRNA and 16S rRNA genes of a specimen of I. hookeri was amplified and sequenced. PCR on part of the 28S rRNA gene was used to detect parasitic wasp DNA in 349 questing Ixodes ricinus ticks from various sampling sites. Furthermore, the wsp gene of Wolbachia was sequenced from the I. hookeri specimen and a subset of ticks was tested using this marker.
Several sequences from tick specimens were identical to the Wolbachia sequence of the I. hookeri specimen. Ixodiphagus hookeri was detected in 9.5% of all tested ticks, varying between 4% and 26% depending on geographic location. Ten out of eleven sampling sites throughout the Netherlands were positive for I. hookeri. Eighty-seven percent of I. hookeri-positive but only 1.6% of I. hookeri-negative ticks were Wolbachia positive. Detection of I. hookeri DNA was strongly associated with the detection of Wolbachia in ticks.
This is the first reported case of I. hookeri in the Netherlands. Furthermore I. hookeri harbours Wolbachia species and is broadly distributed in the Netherlands. While detection of Wolbachia DNA in ticks might often be due to parasitism with this wasp, other sources of Wolbachia DNA in ticks might exist as well.
PMCID: PMC3248373  PMID: 22152674
Ixodiphagus hookeri; Ixodes ricinus; Parasitic wasp; Tick; Wolbachia
22.  Towards an integrated approach in surveillance of vector-borne diseases in Europe 
Parasites & Vectors  2011;4:192.
Vector borne disease (VBD) emergence is a complex and dynamic process. Interactions between multiple disciplines and responsible health and environmental authorities are often needed for an effective early warning, surveillance and control of vectors and the diseases they transmit. To fully appreciate this complexity, integrated knowledge about the human and the vector population is desirable. In the current paper, important parameters and terms of both public health and medical entomology are defined in order to establish a common language that facilitates collaboration between the two disciplines. Special focus is put on the different VBD contexts with respect to the current presence or absence of the disease, the pathogen and the vector in a given location. Depending on the context, whether a VBD is endemic or not, surveillance activities are required to assess disease burden or threat, respectively. Following a decision for action, surveillance activities continue to assess trends.
PMCID: PMC3199249  PMID: 21967706
Vector borne disease; surveillance; public health; ECDC
23.  Absence of zoonotic Bartonella species in questing ticks: First detection of Bartonella clarridgeiae and Rickettsia felis in cat fleas in the Netherlands 
Parasites & Vectors  2011;4:61.
Awareness for flea- and tick-borne infections has grown in recent years and the range of microorganisms associated with these ectoparasites is rising. Bartonella henselae, the causative agent of Cat Scratch Disease, and other Bartonella species have been reported in fleas and ticks. The role of Ixodes ricinus ticks in the natural cycle of Bartonella spp. and the transmission of these bacteria to humans is unclear. Rickettsia spp. have also been reported from as well ticks as also from fleas. However, to date no flea-borne Rickettsia spp. were reported from the Netherlands. Here, the presence of Bartonellaceae and Rickettsiae in ectoparasites was investigated using molecular detection and identification on part of the gltA- and 16S rRNA-genes.
The zoonotic Bartonella clarridgeiae and Rickettsia felis were detected for the first time in Dutch cat fleas. B. henselae was found in cat fleas and B. schoenbuchensis in ticks and keds feeding on deer. Two Bartonella species, previously identified in rodents, were found in wild mice and their fleas. However, none of these microorganisms were found in 1719 questing Ixodes ricinus ticks. Notably, the gltA gene amplified from DNA lysates of approximately 10% of the questing nymph and adult ticks was similar to that of an uncultured Bartonella-related species found in other hard tick species. The gltA gene of this Bartonella-related species was also detected in questing larvae for which a 16S rRNA gene PCR also tested positive for "Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii". The gltA-gene of the Bartonella-related species found in I. ricinus may therefore be from this endosymbiont.
We conclude that the risk of acquiring Cat Scratch Disease or a related bartonellosis from questing ticks in the Netherlands is negligible. On the other hand fleas and deer keds are probable vectors for associated Bartonella species between animals and might also transmit Bartonella spp. to humans.
PMCID: PMC3087693  PMID: 21501464
24.  Small risk of developing symptomatic tick-borne diseases following a tick bite in the Netherlands 
Parasites & Vectors  2011;4:17.
In The Netherlands, the incidence of Lyme borreliosis is on the rise. Besides its causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., other potential pathogens like Rickettsia, Babesia and Ehrlichia species are present in Ixodes ricinus ticks. The risk of disease associated with these microorganisms after tick-bites remains, however, largely unclear. A prospective study was performed to investigate how many persons with tick-bites develop localized or systemic symptoms and whether these are associated with tick-borne microorganisms.
In total, 297 Ixodes ricinus ticks were collected from 246 study participants who consulted a general practitioner on the island of Ameland for tick bites. Ticks were subjected to PCR to detect DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp. or Ehrlichia/Anaplasma spp.. Sixteen percent of the collected ticks were positive for Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., 19% for Rickettsia spp., 12% for Ehrlichia/Anaplasma spp. and 10% for Babesia spp.. At least six months after the tick bite, study participants were interviewed on symptoms by means of a standard questionnaire. 14 out of 193 participants (8.3%) reported reddening at the bite site and 6 participants (4.1%) reported systemic symptoms. No association between symptoms and tick-borne microorganisms was found. Attachment duration ≥24 h was positively associated with reddening at the bite site and systemic symptoms. Using logistic regression techniques, reddening was positively correlated with presence of Borrelia afzelii, and having 'any symptoms' was positively associated with attachment duration.
The risk of contracting acute Lyme borreliosis, rickettsiosis, babesiosis or ehrlichiosis from a single tick bite was <1% in this study population.
PMCID: PMC3050846  PMID: 21310036
25.  Exotic Rickettsiae in Ixodes ricinus: fact or artifact? 
Parasites & Vectors  2010;3:54.
Several pathogenic Rickettsia species can be transmitted via Ixodes ricinus ticks to humans and animals. Surveys of I. ricinus for the presence of Rickettsiae using part of its 16S rRNA gene yield a plethora of new and different Rickettsia sequences. Interpreting these data is sometimes difficult and presenting these findings as new or potentially pathogenic Rickettsiae should be done with caution: a recent report suggested presence of a known human pathogen, R. australis, in questing I. ricinus ticks in Europe. A refined analysis of these results revealed that R. helvetica was most likely to be misinterpreted as R. australis. Evidence in the literature is accumulating that rickettsial DNA sequences found in tick lysates can also be derived from other sources than viable, pathogenic Rickettsiae. For example, from endosymbionts, environmental contamination or even horizontal gene transfer.
PMCID: PMC2904298  PMID: 20569494

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