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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2013 Mar;13(3):147-53. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2012.1102. Epub 2013 Feb 12.

Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato infecting ticks of the Ixodes ricinus complex in Uruguay: first report for the Southern Hemisphere.

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Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


The Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) group comprises genetically related spirochetes, mostly associated with tick species belonging to the Ixodes ricinus complex in the Northern Hemisphere. The present study evaluated borrelial infection in the tick Ixodes pararicinus, which is the only representative species of the I. ricinus complex in Uruguay. A total of 137 I. pararicinus ticks were collected from deer, cattle, or vegetation in 2 Uruguayan Departments. A part of these ticks was tested directly by PCR targeting the borrelial gene flagellin (fla), whereas another part of the ticks was inoculated into Barbour-Stoenner-Kelly (BSK)-H medium in an attempt to isolate Borrelia. Overall, Borrelia infection was detected in 9 males and 1 nymphal tick pool. These ticks were found to be infected by unique fla haplotypes, which were shown through phylogenetic analysis to represent possibly 2 new B. burgdorferi s.l. genospecies, 1 associated with B. bissettii, the other phylogenetically closest to B. americana. These results were reinforced by PCR and DNA sequencing analyses of portions of 2 additional borrelial genes, rrfA-rrlB intergenic spacer region (IGS) and 16S rDNA (rrs). Weekly examinations of BSK cultures by dark-field microscopy failed to demonstrate live Borrelia through a 100-day incubation period. However, Borrelia DNA was detected by fla-PCR in culture media from 2 vials up to 90 days after inoculation. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of B. burgdorferi s.l. infecting ticks in South America.

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