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Transmission dynamics of Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. in a bird tick community


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We examined the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato circulation in a tick community consisting of three species (Ixodes ricinus, I. frontalis, I. arboricola) with contrasting ecologies, but sharing two European songbird hosts (Parus major and Cyanistes caeruleus). Parus major had the highest infestation rates, primarily due to larger numbers of I. ricinus, and probably because of their greater low-level foraging. The prevalence of Borrelia in feeding ticks did not significantly differ between the two bird species; however, P. major in particular hosted large numbers of Borrelia-infected I. frontalis and I. ricinus larvae, suggesting that the species facilitates Borrelia transmission. The low but significant numbers of Borrelia in questing I. arboricola ticks also provides the first field data to suggest that it is competent in maintaining Borrelia. Aside from Borrelia garinii, a high number of less dominant genospecies was observed, including several mammalian genospecies and the first record of Borrelia turdi for North-Western Europe. Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato IGS genotypes were shared between I. arboricola and I. ricinus and between I. frontalis and I. ricinus, but not between I. arboricola and I. frontalis. This suggests that the Borrelia spp. transmission cycles can be maintained by bird-specific ticks, and bridged by I. ricinus to other hosts outside bird-tick cycles.