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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  Role of sand lizards in the ecology of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in the Netherlands 
Parasites & Vectors  2010;3:42.
Lizards are considered zooprophylactic for almost all Borrelia burgdorferi species, and act as dilution hosts in parts of North America. Whether European lizards significantly reduce the ability of B. burgdorferi to maintain itself in enzootic cycles, and consequently decrease the infection rate of Ixodes ricinus ticks for B. burgdorferi and other tick-borne pathogens in Western Europe is not clear.
Ticks were collected from sand lizards, their habitat (heath) and from the adjacent forest. DNA of tick-borne pathogens was detected by PCR followed by reverse line blotting. Tick densities were measured at all four locations by blanket dragging. Nymphs and adult ticks collected from lizards had a significantly lower (1.4%) prevalence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, compared to questing ticks in heath (24%) or forest (19%). The prevalence of Rickettsia helvetica was significantly higher in ticks from lizards (19%) than those from woodland (10%) whereas neither was significantly different from the prevalence in ticks from heather (15%). The prevalence of Anaplasma and Ehrlichia spp in heather (12%) and forest (14%) were comparable, but significantly lower in ticks from sand lizards (5.4%). The prevalence of Babesia spp in ticks varied between 0 and 5.3%. Tick load of lizards ranged from 1 - 16. Tick densities were ~ 5-fold lower in the heather areas than in woodlands at all four sites.
Despite their apparent low reservoir competence, the presence of sand lizards had insignificant impact on the B. burgdorferi s.l. infection rate of questing ticks. In contrast, sand lizards might act as reservoir hosts for R. helvetica. Remarkably, the public health risk from tick-borne diseases is approximately five times lower in heather than in woodland, due to the low tick densities in heather.
PMCID: PMC2890652  PMID: 20470386

Results 1-8 (8)