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Parasit Vectors. 2015 Oct 15;8:538. doi: 10.1186/s13071-015-1154-1.

Flying ticks: anciently evolved associations that constitute a risk of infectious disease spread.

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SaBio. Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos IREC-CSIC-UCLM-JCCM, Ronda de Toledo s/n, 13005, Ciudad Real, Spain.
Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, 74078, USA.
Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de Zaragoza, 50013, Zaragoza, Spain.
Center for Infection and Immunity of Lille (CIIL), INSERM U1019 - CNRS UMR 8204, Université Lille Nord de France, Institut Pasteur de Lille, 59019, Lille, France.
Ricardo Brey Studio, Galglaan 13, B-9000, Gante, Belgium.


Ticks are important vectors of emerging zoonotic diseases affecting human and animal health worldwide. Ticks are often found on wild birds, which have been long recognized as a potential risk factor for dissemination of ticks and tick-borne pathogens (TBP), thus raising societal concerns and prompting research into their biology and ecology. To fully understand the role of birds in disseminating some ticks species and TBP, it is important to consider the evolutionary relationships between birds, ticks and transmitted pathogens. In this paper we reviewed the possible role of birds in the dissemination of TBP as a result of the evolution of host-tick-pathogen associations. Birds are central elements in the ecological networks of ticks, hosts and TBP. The study of host-tick-pathogen associations reveals a prominent role for birds in the dissemination of Borrelia spp. and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, with little contribution to the possible dissemination of other TBP. Birds have played a major role during tick evolution, which explains why they are by far the most important hosts supporting the ecological networks of ticks and several TBP. The immune response of birds to ticks and TBP has been largely overlooked. To implement effective measures for the control of tick-borne diseases, it is necessary to study bird-tick and bird-pathogen molecular interactions including the immune response of birds to tick infestation and pathogen infection.

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