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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2008 Oct;66(1):72-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2008.00468.x.

Diversity of Ixodes ricinus tick-associated bacterial communities from different forests.

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Wageningen University and Research Centre, Plant Sciences Group, PB, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Nymphal Ixodes ricinus ticks (n=180) were collected from three different areas in the Netherlands to investigate the effect of forest composition on tick-associated microbial communities. Sampled habitats differed in thickness of leaf litter and humus layers and vegetation associations and were located near Amsterdam (Beech-Oak), Ede (Birch-Oak) and Veldhoven (Birch-Oak). Analysis of nine 16S rRNA gene clone libraries made from individual ticks showed nearest matches with presumed pathogens Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis and Rickettsia australis and arthropod endosymbionts Wolbachia pipientis and Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii. Total bacterial species diversity (Shannon index) and Borrelia species infections were determined in I. ricinus by, respectively, PCR-denaturing gradient gel-electrophoresis and PCR-reverse line blot with probes specific for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia valaisiana, Borrelia lusitaniae and Borrelia ruski. Bacterial diversity differed significantly per area and was lowest in Ede. In contrast, Borrelia species-infected ticks were more abundant in Ede, Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis-infected ticks in Ede and Veldhoven, and R. australis-infected ticks in Amsterdam. Borrelia afzelii was the most common Borrelia species found in all three areas. Bacterial tick diversity was influenced by local differences in forest structure, which is proposed to modulate animal populations that are commonly parasitized by I. ricinus.

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