Distribution of ticks infesting ruminants and risk factors associated with high tick prevalence in livestock farms in the semi-arid and arid agro-ecological zones of Pakistan
Background Tick infestation is the major problem for animal health that causes substantial economic losses, particularly in tropical and subtropical countries. To better understand the spatial distribution of tick species and risk factors associated with tick prevalence in livestock in Pakistan, ticks were counted and collected from 471 animals, including 179 cattle, 194 buffaloes, 80 goats and 18 sheep, on 108 livestock farms in nine districts, covering both semi-arid and arid agro-ecological zones. Results In total, 3,807 ticks representing four species were collected: Hyalomma anatolicum (n = 3,021), Rhipicephalus microplus (n = 715), Hyalomma dromedarii (n = 41) and Rhipicephalus turanicus (n = 30). The latter species is reported for the first time from the study area. Rhipicephalus microplus was the predominant species in the semi-arid zone, whereas H. anatolicum was the most abundant species in the arid zone. The overall proportion of tick-infested ruminants was 78.3% (369/471). It was highest in cattle (89.9%), followed by buffaloes (81.4%), goats (60.0%) and sheep (11.1%). The median tick burden significantly differed among animal species and was highest in cattle (median 58), followed by buffaloes (median 38), goats (median 19) and sheep (median 4.5). Female animals had significantly higher tick burdens than males and, in large ruminants, older animals carried more ticks than younger animals. The intensity of infestation was significantly lower in indigenous animals compared to exotic and crossbred cows. Analysis of questionnaire data revealed that the absence of rural poultry, not using any acaricides, traditional rural housing systems and grazing were potential risk factors associated with a higher tick prevalence in livestock farms. Conclusion Absence of rural poultry, not performing acaricide treatments, traditional rural housing systems and grazing were important risk factors associated with higher tick prevalence in livestock farms. Age, gender, breed and animal species significantly affected the intensity of tick infestation. This report also describes the presence of R. turanicus in the Punjab Province of Pakistan for the first time. The outcomes of this study will be useful in the planning of integrated control strategies for ticks and tick-borne diseases in Pakistan.