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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Characterization of the bacterial microbiome of Swedish ticks through 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing of whole ticks and of individual tick organs

Grandi, Giulio; Chiappa, Giulia; Ullman, Karin; Lindgren, Per-Eric; Olivieri, Emanuela; Sassera, Davide; Ostlund, Emma; Omazic, Anna; Perissinotto, Debora; Soderlund, Robert


Background The composition of the microbial flora associated with ixodid ticks has been studied in several species, revealing the importance of geographical origin, developmental stage(s) and feeding status of the tick, as well as substantial differences between tissues and organs. Studying the microbiome in the correct context and scale is therefore necessary for understanding the interactions between tick-borne pathogens and other microorganisms as well as other aspects of tick biology. Methods In the present study the microbial flora of whole Ixodes ricinus, I. persulcatus and I. trianguliceps ticks were analyzed with 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. Additionally, tick organs (midguts, Malpighian tubules, ovaries, salivary glands) from flat and engorged I. ricinus female ticks were examined with the same methodology. Results The most abundant bacteria belonged to the group of Proteobacteria (Cand. Midichloria mitochondrii and Cand. Lariskella). 16S amplicon sequencing of dissected tick organs provided more information on the diversity of I. ricinus-associated microbial flora, especially when organs were collected from engorged ticks. Bacterial genera significantly associated with tick feeding status as well as genera associated with the presence of tick-borne pathogens were identified. Conclusions These results contribute to the knowledge of microbial flora associated with ixodid ticks in their northernmost distribution limit in Europe and opens new perspectives for other investigations on the function of these bacteria, including those using other approaches like in vitro cultivation and in vitro models.


Ixodes ricinus; Microbiota; Community profiling; Tick-borne pathogens; One Health; NGS; 16S; Endosymbiont; Borrelia; Midichloria

Published in

Parasites and Vectors
2023, Volume: 16, number: 1, article number: 39
Publisher: BMC