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Pandora’s Box: pathogens in Ixodes ricinus ticks in Central Europe.

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Abstract

Among the various species of hard ticks, Ixodes ricinus is the most frequently found tick throughout Europe. As with other ixodid ticks, the developmental cycle runs through three stages. In each stage a blood meal is required in order to develop to the next stage. Ixodes ricinus has been found to feed on more than 300 different vertebrate species. Usually, larval ticks feed on small mammals such as mice and become infected with various microorganisms and viruses, of which some are substantial pathogens to humans. The pathogens remain in the tick during molting and are thus transstadially transmitted to the next developmental stage. Pathogens transmitted to humans are the agents of
Lyme borreliosis, the tick-borne encephalitis virus, Rickettsia species, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, occasionally Francisella tularensis, and protozoal Babesia species. Within the scope of an EU project Ixodes ricinus ticks from all federal states of Austria were searched by means of PCR methods for bacterial pathogens such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Coxiella burnetii, Ehrlichia spp., Francisella tularensis, Rickettsia spp., and protozoal Babesia. Additionally, the prevalence of Bartonella spp. in this tick species was also determined. Besides the singular detection of Coxiella burnetii and Francisella tularensis in one tick collection site the overall prevalence of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, borreliae, rickettsae and babesiae in Ixodes ricinus amounted to 15%, 14%, 6% and surprising 36% and 51%, respectively. Bartonellae were detected in about 7%.

Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2009;121(21-22):673-83. doi: 10.1007/s00508-009-1281-9. English Abstract

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