Global Distribution of Babesia Species in Questing Ticks: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Based on Published Literature
Babesiosis caused by the Babesia species is a parasitic tick-borne disease. It threatens many mammalian species and is transmitted through infected ixodid ticks. To date, the global occurrence and distribution are poorly understood in questing ticks. Therefore, we performed a meta-analysis to estimate the distribution of the pathogen. A deep search for four electronic databases of the published literature investigating the prevalence of Babesia spp. in questing ticks was undertaken and obtained data analyzed. Our results indicate that in 104 eligible studies dating from 1985 to 2020, altogether 137,364 ticks were screened with 3069 positives with an estimated global pooled prevalence estimates (PPE) of 2.10%. In total, 19 different Babesia species of both human and veterinary importance were detected in 23 tick species, with Babesia microti and Ixodes ricinus being the most widely reported Babesia and tick species, respectively. Regardless of species, adult ticks with 2.60% had the highest infection rates, while larvae had the least with 0.60%. Similarly, female ticks with 4.90% were infected compared to males with 3.80%. Nested-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) 2.80% had the highest prevalence among the molecular techniques employed. In conclusion, results obtained indicate that Babesia species are present in diverse questing tick species at a low prevalence, of which some are competent vectors.