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Revisited: Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato infections in hard ticks (Ixodes ricinus) in the city of Hanover (Germany)

Tappe, Julia, Jordan, Daniela, Janecek, Elisabeth, Fingerle, Volker, Strube, Christina
Parasites & vectors 2014 v.7 no.1 pp. 441
Borrelia burgdorferi, Ixodes ricinus, Rickettsia, adults, females, larvae, males, mixed infection, pathogens, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, seasonal variation, species identification, ticks, transovarial transmission, Germany
BACKGROUND: The present study investigated the prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) genospecies in Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in Hanover, Northern Germany, in 2010. At the same time the study served as fifth-year-follow-up study for data comparison with 2005. METHODS: A total of 2100 questing ticks were collected and analysed by quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) with subsequent species differentiation via Reverse Line Blot and Sanger sequencing. Simultaneously, results obtained in 2010 were compared to infection rates from 2005 to evaluate the development of B. burgdorferi s.l. infection rates in Hanoverian ticks. RESULTS: Overall, 22.7% (476/2,100) of collected ticks were tested positive for B. burgdorferi s.l. infections. Adult ticks showed an infection rate of 33.3% (124/372), subdivided into 29.6% (58/196) positive males and 37.5% (66/176) positive females. Nymph and larvae infection rates were found to be 20.3% (344/1,697) and 25.8% (8/31), respectively. Species identification was successful for 59.2% (282/476) of positive ticks with B. afzelii as the most frequently detected genospecies, followed by B. garinii (including B. bavariensis) and B. spielmanii. B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.), B. bissettii, B. valaisiana and B. lusitaniae were also identified. Significant differences concerning seasonal fluctuations as well as local differences were observed. Comparing infection rates of Hanoverian ticks between years, a significant increase (Pā€‰=ā€‰0.002) could be observed for larvae with 1.7% positives (2/60) in 2005 and 25.8% positives (8/31) in 2010. In the latter year, coinfections with Borrelia and Rickettsiales were detected in a total of 7.8% (163/2,100) of collected ticks. Of these, 7.3% (153/2,100) were coinfected with Rickettsia spp., 0.3% (7/2,100) with A. phagocytophilum and 0.1% (3/2,100) were coinfected with all three pathogens. Between years 2005 and 2010, no statistically significant differences in coinfection rates were found. CONCLUSIONS: Comparing B. burgdorferi s.l. infections in Hanoverian I. ricinus ticks in 2010 with data from 2005, a statistically significant increase of infected larvae was noted, whereas the other stages revealed no statistically significant differences. Whether the increased larvae infection rate is an isolated event or results from factual circumstances, e.g. increasing effectiveness of transovarial transmission due to unknown factors, has to be evaluated in further studies.