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The pigeon tick (Argas reflexus): its biology, ecology, and epidemiological aspects.

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Abstract

The European pigeon tick, Argas reflexus (F.), is in central Europe predominantly an urban pest parasitizing wild and domesticated pigeons, Columba livia. Under certain circumstances, however, it also bites humans, occasionally causing an IgE-mediated type-I allergy. Control of A. reflexus is very difficult because of a number of remarkable morphological, physiological, and behavioural features of the tick. The present study aimed at elucidating the distribution and the frequency of occurrence of A. reflexus in Berlin and its possible vector role for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s. l.). Buildings reported by occupiers to be infested with A. reflexus were personally examined. In addition, the carrier status of this soft tick for B. burgdorferi (s. l.) was investigated in three German towns by an indirect immunofluorescence assay. A total of 188 Berlin buildings was found to be infested with A. reflexus between 1989 and 1998. Infestations were found in 17 out of the 21 districts, clustering in the inner city. There was only a single Borrelia-positive tick out of 800 sampled in Berlin, Leipzig, and Hannover using the genus specific antibody H9724. The same tick was PCR-negative for B. burgdorferi outer surface protein A. Neither these results nor those of other studies on the occurrence of antibodies against B. burgdorferi in pigeons suggest that field populations of A. reflexus and/or pigeons in central Europe harbour the causative agent of
Lyme borreliosis.

Zentralbl Bakteriol. 1999 Dec;289(5-7):745-53.

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