• Year-to-year variation in the density of Ixodes ricinus ticks and the prevalence of the rodent-associated human pathogens Borrelia afzelii and B. miyamotoi in different forest types.

      Ruyts, Sanne C; Tack, Wesley; Ampoorter, Evy; Coipan, Elena C; Matthysen, Erik; Heylen, Dieter; Sprong, Hein; Verheyen, Kris (2017-08-26)
      The human pathogens Borrelia afzelii, which causes Lyme borreliosis and B. miyamotoi, which causes relapsing fever, both circulate between Ixodes ricinus ticks and rodents. The spatiotemporal dynamics in the prevalence of these pathogens have not yet been fully elucidated, but probably depend on the spatiotemporal population dynamics of small rodents. We aimed to evaluate the effect of different forest types on the density of infected nymphs in different years and to obtain more knowledge about the spatial and temporal patterns of ticks and tick-borne pathogens. We analysed unfed nymphal ticks from 22 stands of four different forest types in Belgium in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014 and found that the density of nymphs in general and the density of nymphs infected with B. afzelii and B. miyamotoi varied yearly, but without temporal variation in the infection prevalence. The yearly variation in density of infected nymphs in our study thus seems to be caused most by the variation in the density of nymphs, which makes it a good predictor of disease risk. The risk for rodent-associated tick-borne diseases also varied between forest types. We stress the need to elucidate the contribution of the host community composition to tick-borne disease risk.