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Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato in Questing and Engorged Ticks from Different Habitat Types in Southern Germany

Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) causes the most common tick-borne infection in Europe, with Germany being amongst the countries with the highest incidences in humans. This study aimed at (1) comparing infection rates of B. burgdorferi s.l. in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks from different habitat types in Southern Germany, (2) analysing genospecies distribution by habitat type, and (3) testing tissue and ticks from hosts for B. burgdorferi s.l. Questing ticks from urban, pasture, and natural habitats together with feeding ticks from cattle (pasture) and ticks and tissue samples from wild boars and roe deer (natural site) were tested by PCR and RFLP for species differentiation. B. burgdorferi s.l. was found in 29.8% questing adults and 15% nymphs. Prevalence was lower at the urban sites with occurrence of roe deer than where these were absent. Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. DNA was found in 4.8% ticks from roe deer, 6.3% from wild boar, and 7.8% from cattle. Six genospecies were identified in unfed ticks: Borrelia afzelii (48.6%), Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (16%), Borrelia garinii (13.2%), Borrelia valaisiana (7.5%), Borrelia spielmanii (6.2%), and Borrelia bavariensis (0.9%). This study shows high infection levels and a great diversity of Borrelia in questing ticks. The presence of roe deer seems to reduce B. burgdorferi s.l. infection rates in tick populations.



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