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PLoS One. 2017 Mar 31;12(3):e0174727. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174727. eCollection 2017.

Epidemiological study of relapsing fever borreliae detected in Haemaphysalis ticks and wild animals in the western part of Japan.

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Department of Veterinary Medicine, Joint Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Yamaguchi University, Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi, Japan.
Cetacean research institute, National Institute of Fisheries Science, Nam-gu, Ulsan, Republic of Korea.
Hikiiwa Park Center, Tanabe, Wakayama, Japan.
The United Graduate School of Veterinary Science, Yamaguchi University, Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi, Japan.


The genus Borrelia comprises arthropod-borne bacteria, which are infectious agents in vertebrates. They are mainly transmitted by ixodid or argasid ticks. In Hokkaido, Japan, Borrelia spp. were found in deer and Haemaphysalis ticks between 2011 and 2013; however, the study was limited to a particular area. Therefore, in the present study, we conducted large-scale surveillance of ticks and wild animals in the western part of the main island of Japan. We collected 6,407 host-seeking ticks from two regions and 1,598 larvae obtained from 32 engorged female ticks and examined them to elucidate transovarial transmission. In addition, we examined whole blood samples from 190 wild boars and 276 sika deer, as well as sera from 120 wild raccoons. We detected Borrelia spp. in Haemaphysalis flava, Haemaphysalis megaspinosa, Haemaphysalis kitaokai, Haemaphysalis longicornis, and Haemaphysalis formosensis. In addition, we isolated a strain from H. megaspinosa using Barbour-Stoenner-Kelly medium. The minimum infection rate of ticks was less than 5%. Transovarial transmission was observed in H. kitaokai. Phylogenetic analysis of the isolated strain and DNA fragments amplified from ticks identified at least four bacterial genotypes, which corresponded to the tick species detected. Bacteria were detected in 8.4%, 15%, and 0.8% of wild boars, sika deer, and raccoons, respectively. In this study, we found seasonal differences in the prevalence of bacterial genotypes in sika deer during the winter and summer. The tick activity season corresponds to the season with a high prevalence of animals. The present study suggests that a particular bacterial genotype detected in this study are defined by a particular tick species in which they are present.

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