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The diversity and the distribution of tick species and their infection rates by the pathogenic micro-organism Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the etiologic agent of
Lyme borreliosis, and Rickettsia sp., were studied in Canton Ticino (the southern part of Switzerland). Ticks specimens collected from animals and humans were classified and analysed for the presence of both pathogens. In particular, PCR analysis was performed for the detection of Borrelia spirochetes in Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes hexagonus, and the hemolymph test was done on Rhipicephalus sanguineus for the detection of Rickettsia sp. PCR assays, performed on 424 of the 989 collected ticks, revealed a low rate of infection (around 2%) of both vectors I. ricinus and I. hexagonus by B. burgdorferi sensu lato. These results are in agreement with the modest number of
Lyme borreliosis cases yearly recorded in Ticino. Further, through analysis of DNA sequences, the strains carried by the infected ticks were identified as belonging to the genomic group VS116. The widespread finding of the Mediterranean species Rhipicephalus sanguineus in different locations from July 1994 to October 1995 demonstrates its establishment in Ticino. Of the 210 specimens collected, 70 were analysed and one was infected by Rickettsia sp.