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Host races in Ixodes ricinus, the European vector of Lyme borreliosis.

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Ixodes ricinus is a European tick that transmits numerous pathogenic agents, including the bacteria that cause
Lyme disease (some genospecies of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex). This tick has been considered as a classic example of an extreme generalist vector. However, host-associations in such vector species are difficult to determine from field observations alone and recent work suggests that host specificity may be more frequent in ticks than previously thought. The presence of host-associated vector groups can significantly alter the circulation and evolutionary pathway of associated pathogens. In this paper, we explicitly test for host-associated genetic structure in I. ricinus. We analyzed genetic variability at 11 microsatellite markers in a large sample of ticks collected directly from trapped wild animals (birds, rodents, lizards, wild boar and roe deer) at five sites in Western and Central Europe. We found significant levels of genetic structure both among host individuals and among host types within local populations, suggesting that host use is not random in I. ricinus. These results help explain previous patterns of structure found in off-host tick samples, along with epidemiological observations of
Lyme disease.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Infect Genet Evol. 2011 Dec;11(8):2043-8. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2011.09.016. Epub 2011 Sep 29. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t

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