[Ixodes ricinus, transmitted diseases and reservoirs]

A Rizzoli, R Rosà, B Mantelli, E Pecchioli, H Hauffe, V Tagliapietra, T Beninati, M Neteler, C Genchi
Parassitologia 2004, 46 (1): 119-22
The tick Ixodes ricinus has been recorded in most Italian regions especially in thermo-mesophilous woods and shrubby habitats where the relative humidity allow the tick to complete its 3 year developmental cycle, as predicted for the European climatic ranges. This tick acts both as vector and reservoir for a series of wildlife zoonotic pathogens, especially the agents of Lyme diseases, Tick borne encephalitis and Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis, which are emerging in most of Europe. To assess the spatial distribution of these pathogens and the infection risk for humans and animals within the territory of the Province of Trento, we carried out a long term study using a combination of eco-epidemiological surveys and mathematical modelling. An extensive tick collection with a GIS based habitat suitability analysis allowed us to identify the areas where tick occurs at various density. To identify the areas with higher infection risk, we estimated the values of R0 for Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., TBE virus and Anaplasma phagocytophila under different ecological conditions. We assessed the infection prevalence in the vector and in the wildlife reservoir species that play a central role in the persistence of these infections, ie the small mammals A. flavicollis and C. glareolus. We also considered the double effect of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) which act as reservoir for A. phagocytophila but is an incompetent host for B. burgdorferi and TBE virus, thus reducing the infection prevalence in ticks of these last two pathogens. Infection prevalence with B. burgdorferi and A. phagocytophila in the vector was assessed by PCR screening 1212 I. ricinus nymphs collected by dragging in six main study areas during 2002. The mean infection prevalence recorded was 1.32% for B. burgdorferi s.l. and 9.84% for A. phagocytophila. Infection prevalence in nymphs with TBE virus, as assessed in a previous study was 0.03%. Infection prevalence in rodents was assessed by screening (with ELISA and PCR) tissues and blood samples collected from 367 rodent individuals trapped extensively during 2002 within 6 main study areas. A. flavicollis (N=238) was found to be infected with all three pathogens investigated, with infection prevalence ranging from 3.3% for TBE virus to 11.7% for A. phagocytophila, and 16.6% with B. burgdorferi s.l. C. glareolus (N=108) showed an infection prevalence of 6.5% with A. phagocytophila and 12.7% with B. burgdorferi s.l., while no individuals were infected with TBE virus. We also screened 98 spleen samples collected from roe deer with PCR, resulting in a mean prevalence of infection with A. phagocytophila of 19.8%. Using a deterministic model we explored the condition for diseases persistence under different rodent and roe deer densities. R0 values resulted largely above 1 for B. burgdorferi s.l. in the vast majority of the areas classified as suitable for I. ricinus occurrence in Trentino, while the condition for TBE persistence appeared to be more restricted by a combination of climatic condition and host densities.

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