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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Impact of vertebrate communities on Ixodes ricinus-borne disease risk in forest areas

Takumi, Katsuhisa; Sprong, Hein; Hofmeester, Tim R.


Background The density of questing ticks infected with tick-borne pathogens is an important parameter that determines tick-borne disease risk. An important factor determining this density is the availability of different wildlife species as hosts for ticks and their pathogens. Here, we investigated how wildlife communities contribute to tick-borne disease risk. The density of Ixodes ricinus nymphs infected with Borrelia burgdorferi (sensu lato), Borrelia miyamotoi, Neoehrlichia mikurensis and Anaplasma phagocytophilum among 19 forest sites were correlated to the encounter probability of different vertebrate hosts, determined by encounter rates as measured by (camera) trapping and mathematical modeling. Result We found that the density of any tick life stage was proportional to the encounter probability of ungulates. Moreover, the density of nymphs decreased with the encounter probability of hare, rabbit and red fox. The density of nymphs infected with the transovarially-transmitted B. miyamotoi increased with the density of questing nymphs and the encounter probability of bank vole. The density of nymphs infected with all other pathogens increased with the encounter probability of competent hosts: bank vole for Borrelia afzelii and N. mikurensis, ungulates for A. phagocytophilum and blackbird for Borrelia garinii and Borrelia valaisiana. The negative relationship we found was a decrease in the density of nymphs infected with B. garinii and B. valaisiana with the encounter probability of wood mouse. Conclusions Only a few animal species drive the densities of infected nymphs in forested areas. There, foxes and leporids have negative effects on tick abundance, and consequently on the density of infected nymphs. The abundance of competent hosts generally drives the abundances of their tick-borne pathogen. A dilution effect was only observed for bird-associated Lyme spirochetes.


Ixodes ricinus; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Borrelia burgdorferi (s.l.); Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Borrelia miyamotoi; Vector-borne disease; Lyme borreliosis; Transmission dynamics

Published in

Parasites and Vectors
2019, Volume: 12, number: 1, article number: 434
Publisher: BMC

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology

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