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Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 25;9(1):5088. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41686-0.

Genospecies of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato detected in 16 mammal species and questing ticks from northern Europe.

Author information

1
Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066, Blindern, NO-0316, Oslo, Norway. atle.mysterud@ibv.uio.no.
2
Evolutionary Ecology Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610, Wilrijk, Belgium. atle.mysterud@ibv.uio.no.
3
Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066, Blindern, NO-0316, Oslo, Norway.
4
Centre for Infectious Disease Control (CIb), National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Lyme borreliosis is the most common vector-borne zoonosis in the northern hemisphere, and the pathogens causing Lyme borreliosis have distinct, incompletely described transmission cycles involving multiple host groups. The mammal community in Fennoscandia differs from continental Europe, and we have limited data on potential competent and incompetent hosts of the different genospecies of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (sl) at the northern distribution ranges where Lyme borreliosis is emerging. We used qPCR to determine presence of B. burgdorferi sl in tissue samples (ear) from 16 mammalian species and questing ticks from Norway, and we sequenced the 5S-23 S rDNA intergenic spacer region to determine genospecies from 1449 qPCR-positive isolates obtaining 423 sequences. All infections coming from small rodents and shrews were linked to the genospecies B. afzelii, while B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (ss) was only found in red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). Red squirrels were also infected with B. afzelii and B. garinii. There was no evidence of B. burgdorferi sl infection in moose (Alces alces), red deer (Cervus elaphus) or roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), confirming the role of cervids as incompetent hosts. In infected questing ticks in the two western counties, B. afzelii (67% and 75%) dominated over B. garinii (27% and 21%) and with only a few recorded B. burgdorferi ss and B. valaisiana. B. burgdorferi ss were more common in adult ticks than in nymphs, consistent with a reservoir in squirrels. Our study identifies potential competent hosts for the different genospecies, which is key to understand transmission cycles at high latitudes of Europe.

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