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Variable exposure and immunological response to Lyme disease Borrelia among North Atlantic seabird species.

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Colonial seabirds often breed in large aggregations. These individuals can be exposed to parasitism by the tick Ixodes uriae, but little is known about the circulation of pathogens carried by this ectoparasite, including
Lyme disease Borrelia. Here we investigated the prevalence of antibodies (Ab) against Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in seabird species sampled at eight locations across the North Atlantic. Using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests, we found that the prevalence of anti-Borrelia Ab in adult seabirds was 39.6% on average (over 444 individuals), but that it varied among colonies and species. Common guillemots showed higher seroprevalence (77.1%+/-5.9) than black-legged kittiwakes (18.6%+/-6.7) and Atlantic puffins (22.6%+/-6.3). Immunoblot-banding patterns of positive individuals, reflecting the variability of Borrelia antigens against which Ab were produced, also differed among locations and species, and did not tightly match the prevalence of Borrelia phylogroups previously identified in ticks collected from the same host individuals. These results represent the first report of the widespread prevalence of Ab against Borrelia within an assemblage of seabird species and demonstrate that Borrelia is an integrated aspect in the interaction between seabirds and ticks. More detailed studies on the dynamics of Borrelia within and among seabird species at different spatial scales will now be required to better understand the implications of this interaction for seabird ecology and the epidemiology of
Lyme disease.

Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Sep 22;275(1647):2101-9. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0515. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t

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