JOURNAL ARTICLE

Tick parasites of rodents in Romania: host preferences, community structure and geographical distribution

Andrei D Mihalca, Mirabela O Dumitrache, Attila D Sándor, Cristian Magdaş, Miruna Oltean, Adriana Györke, Ioana A Matei, Angela Ionică, Gianluca D'Amico, Vasile Cozma, Călin M Gherman
Parasites & Vectors 2012, 5: 266
23171665

BACKGROUND: Ticks are among the most important vectors of zoonotic diseases in temperate regions of Europe, with widespread distribution and high densities, posing an important medical risk. Most ticks feed on a variety of progressively larger hosts, with a large number of small mammal species typically harbouring primarily the immature stages. However, there are certain Ixodidae that characteristically attack micromammals also during their adult stage. Rodents are widespread hosts of ticks, important vectors and competent reservoirs of tick-borne pathogens. Micromammal-tick associations have been poorly studied in Romania, and our manuscript shows the results of a large scale study on tick infestation epidemiology in rodents from Romania.

METHODS: Rodents were caught using snap-traps in a variety of habitats in Romania, between May 2010 and November 2011. Ticks were individually collected from these rodents and identified to species and development stage. Frequency, mean intensity, prevalence and its 95% confidence intervals were calculated using the EpiInfo 2000 software. A p value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant.

RESULTS: We examined 423 rodents (12 species) collected from six counties in Romania for the presence of ticks. Each collected tick was identified to species level and the following epidemiological parameters were calculated: prevalence, mean intensity and mean abundance. The total number of ticks collected from rodents was 483, with eight species identified: Ixodes ricinus, I. redikorzevi, I. apronophorus, I. trianguliceps, I. laguri, Dermacentor marginatus, Rhipicephalus sanguineus and Haemaphysalis sulcata. The overall prevalence of tick infestation was 29.55%, with a mean intensity of 3.86 and a mean abundance of 1.14. Only two polyspecific infestations were found: I. ricinus + I. redikorzevi and I. ricinus + D. marginatus.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study showed a relatively high diversity of ticks parasitizing rodents in Romania. The most common tick in rodents was I. ricinus, followed by I. redikorzevi. Certain rodents seem to host a significantly higher number of tick species than others, the most important within this view being Apodemus flavicollis and Microtus arvalis. The same applies for the overall prevalence of tick parasitism, with some species more commonly infected (M. arvalis, A. uralensis, A. flavicollis and M. glareolus) than others. Two rodent species (Mus musculus, Rattus norvegicus) did not harbour ticks at all. Based on our results we may assert that rodents generally can act as good indicators for assessing the distribution of certain tick species.

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