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Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2019 Feb 27. pii: S1877-959X(18)30398-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2019.02.016. [Epub ahead of print]

Babesia odocoilei and zoonotic pathogens identified from Ixodes scapularis ticks in southern Ontario, Canada.

Author information

1
Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd. E, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada; Toronto Zoo, 361A Old Finch Ave., Toronto, ON, M1B 5K7, Canada. Electronic address: emilnesdvm@yahoo.co.uk.
2
Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd. E, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada.
3
Toronto Zoo, 361A Old Finch Ave., Toronto, ON, M1B 5K7, Canada.
4
Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd. E, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada; Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602, United States.

Abstract

Cervid babesiosis, caused by the protozoan hemoparasite Babesia odocoilei and transmitted by the blacklegged tick Ixodes scapularis, is an emerging disease of Canadian cervids. This pathogen has not yet been described in humans. Data are lacking on the role of migratory birds in the adventitious spread of Ba. odocoilei-infected ticks, as well as on the infection status of I. scapularis in environments used by susceptible wildlife hosts. Following a high-mortality outbreak of cervid babesiosis at the Toronto Zoo [TZ], the present study was initiated to investigate Ba. odocoilei and other tick-borne pathogens of veterinary and public health importance (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.), Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia miyamotoi, and Babesia microti) in I. scapularis at three sites in southern Ontario, Canada. Blanket dragging for questing ticks yielded I. scapularis from the three sites evaluated: TZ, Point Pelee National Park, and Long Point Bird Observatory [LPBO]. Babesia odocoilei was identified in I. scapularis collected by dragging at the TZ and at LPBO. Borrelia burgdorferi s.s. was identified in I. scapularis at all three sites. Anaplasma phagocytophilum was identified in I. scapularis collected from the TZ. During the springs of 2016 and 2017, 1102 northward-migrating birds were examined for ticks at LPBO. One or more I. scapularis were found on 3.2% of birds (n = 595) in 2016, and 6.7% (n = 507) of birds in 2017. Overall, across both years, 0.2% and 0.5% of birds carried one or more I. scapularis ticks that tested PCR-positive for Ba. odocoilei and Bo. burgdorferi s.s., respectively. These data indicate that Ba. odocoilei-positive I. scapularis are found in southern Ontario, and suggest that bird-borne ticks have the potential to contribute to range expansion of both Ba. odocoilei and Bo. burgdorferi s.s. in Canada.

KEYWORDS:

Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Babesia odocoilei; Borrelia burgdorferi; Cervid babesiosis; Ixodes scapularis; Migratory birds

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