Prevalence of three zoonotic Babesia species in Ixodes ricinus (Linné, 1758) nymphs in a suburban forest in Switzerland

Luca Gigandet, Emilie Stauffer, Véronique Douet, Olivier Rais, Jacqueline Moret, Lise Gern
Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 2011, 11 (4): 363-6
The tick Ixodes ricinus (Linné, 1758) is known as the vector of various Babesia spp. pathogenic for humans. In Switzerland, three of them, Babesia divergens, Babesia venatorum (also known as Babesia EU1), and Babesia microti, have been reported in I. ricinus ticks from various areas. The aim here was to determine how frequently these species infect I. ricinus nymphs in a suburban forest and to determine their prevalence over 3 years along a pathway delimited in four different sections. Babesia spp. was detected and identified in 44/2568 (1.7%) I. ricinus nymphs using Reverse Line Blot. B. venatorum was infecting 1.1% (27/2568) of nymphs, B. divergens 0.2% (4/2568), and B. microti 0.7% (13/1908). Tick infection rates by these three Babesia species between years were not different except for B. microti, which was significantly less frequent in ticks in 2008 than in 2006 and 2007 according to a test using trusted intervals of percentages. B. microti was displaying the greater difference of prevalence among sampling sections, ranging from 1.6% in section 1 to 0% in section 4. The presence of these three Babesia species that are of medical relevance in a suburban forest where I. ricinus tick density is high requires attention from physicians, particularly for patients presenting unspecific symptoms and for patients who are immunocompromised, and who have history of contact with tick biotopes.

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