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Babesia genotypes in Haemaphysalis concinna collected from birds in Hungary reflect phylogeographic connections with Siberia and the Far East

Flaisz, Barbara, Sulyok, Kinga M., Kováts, Dávid, Kontschán, Jenő, Csörgő, Tibor, Csipak, Ármin, Gyuranecz, Miklós, Hornok, Sándor
Ticks and tick-borne diseases 2017 v.8 no.4 pp. 666-670
Babesia, DNA, Haemaphysalis, Passeriformes, autumn, genotype, larvae, migratory behavior, migratory birds, nymphs, phylogeny, phylogeography, polymerase chain reaction, ruminants, sequence analysis, summer, tick-borne diseases, ticks, vegetation, Central European region, East Asia, Hungary, Siberia, Slovakia
Haemaphysalis concinna is the second most common tick species attaching to birds in Hungary. Recently, Babesia genotypes, found in Siberia and the Far East, have been detected in this tick species collected from the vegetation in Hungary and Slovakia. The aim of this study was to molecularly investigate if these piroplasms also occur in H. concinna carried by migratory birds, which might explain their occurrence in the western Palaearctic. During a 2-year period, 321 H. concinna larvae and nymphs were collected from 121 passerine birds (of 19 species) in Hungary. These were molecularly investigated for the presence of piroplasm DNA with PCR and sequencing. The prevalence of PCR positive ticks was 15.9% (51 out of 321). Piroplasm PCR positivity of H. concinna ticks was significantly more frequent during the summer and autumn compared to spring, suggesting that migratory birds arriving in Hungary from the north or north east are the most important in the dispersal of H. concinna-associated piroplasms. Three genotypes, i.e. Babesia sp. “Irk-Hc133”, “Irk-Hc130” (originally found in Irkutsk, Siberia) and “Kh-Hc222” (originally found in Khabarovsk, Far East) were detected. Phylogenetically all these belonged to the group formed by Babesia spp. of ruminants. Four bird species, which had 14–60% prevalence of PCR positive ticks, are known to be associated with northeast to southwest autumn migration. In conclusion, the presence of Central and East Asian Babesia genotypes in Central Europe are most likely related to bird species with known eastern migratory habit and/or phylogenetically substantiated connections between their eastern and western Eurasian populations.