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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2007 Spring;7(1):50-8.

Ixodes ricinus density and infection prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato along a North-facing altitudinal gradient in the Rhône Valley (Switzerland).

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Institut de Biologie, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


Questing Ixodes ricinus ticks were sampled monthly along a north-facing altitudinal gradient in the canton of Valais, Switzerland, from March 2004 to February 2005. Tick density and infection with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato were monitored. Ticks were collected by flagging vegetation at three different altitudes (750 m, 880 m, and 1020 m above sea level). Ticks were examined for Borrelia by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) followed by reverse line blot. At the three altitudes, questing tick activity was not observed under 10 degrees C and was reduced when saturation deficit was higher than 5 mm Hg, most questing tick activity was occurred between 2 mm Hg and 7 mm Hg. Tick density and peak tick density were highest at 1020 m. High saturation deficits at the lowest altitudes appear to impair the tick population. The prevalence of B. burgdorferi infection in nymphs and adults decreased with altitude. The prevalence of infection was higher in adult ticks (47%) than in nymphs (29%). Four B. burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies were detected: B. afzelii (40%), B. garinii (22%), B. valaisiana (12%) and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (6%). Mixed infections were detected in 13% of infected ticks.

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