Novel foci of Dermacentor reticulatus ticks infected with Babesia canis and Babesia caballi in the Netherlands and in Belgium

Frans Jongejan, Moniek Ringenier, Michael Putting, Laura Berger, Stefan Burgers, Reinier Kortekaas, Jesse Lenssen, Marleen van Roessel, Michiel Wijnveld, Maxime Madder
Parasites & Vectors 2015, 8: 232

BACKGROUND: Autochthonous populations of Dermacentor reticulatus ticks in the Netherlands were discovered after fatal cases of babesiosis occurred in resident dogs in 2004. The presence of D. reticulatus in the Netherlands has also linked with the emergence of piroplasmosis in the resident horse population. The aim of this study was to put together results of continued surveillance of field sites and hosts for this tick in the Netherlands and also in Belgium and determine their infection status for Babesia and Theileria species.

METHODS: Ticks were collected from the vegetation at 11 locations between 2011 and 2013. D. reticulatus ticks were also collected from different hosts between 2007 and 2013. Ticks were screened by PCR and reverse line blot (RLB).

RESULTS: A total of 1368 D. reticulatus ticks were collected from 4 previously known field locations and from 5 new locations in the Netherlands and from 2 sites in Belgium (one old and one new location). A total of 855 ticks collected from 8 locations in the Netherlands and 2 locations in Belgium were tested. Fourteen ticks (1,64%) collected at 4 field locations (Dintelse Gorzen, Rozenburg, Slikken van de Heen and St. Philipsland) were positive for Babesia canis, whereas two ticks were positive for Babesia caballi, one tick in the Dintelse Gorzen in the Netherlands and one tick was found positive in De Panne in Belgium. A further 1092 D. reticulatus ticks were collected between 2007 and 2013 from 40 dogs (132 ticks), two ticks from two humans, 51 ticks from 15 horses, two ticks from two cats, one tick from a roe deer, whereas most ticks (904) were collected from cattle (n = 25). Ticks were found throughout the year on dogs in nearly all provinces of the Netherlands. None of the ticks collected from these hosts were infected.

CONCLUSIONS: D. reticulatus is continuing its spread into novel areas. The finding that some autochthonous ticks are infected with B. canis and B. caballi poses a threat to the resident dog and horse population and justifies year-round tick control measures.

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