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Birds as reservoirs for Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. in Western Europe: circulation of B. turdi and other genospecies in bird–tick cycles in Portugal

Authors

  • A. C. Norte,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Marine Research IMAR/CMA, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Apartado 3046, 3001-401 Coimbra, Portugal.
    2. Center for Vector and Infectious Diseases Research, National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal.
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  • J. A. Ramos,

    1. Institute of Marine Research IMAR/CMA, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Apartado 3046, 3001-401 Coimbra, Portugal.
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  • L. Gern,

    1. Laboratory of Eco-Epidemiology of Parasites, Institute of Biology, University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
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  • M. S. Núncio,

    1. Center for Vector and Infectious Diseases Research, National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal.
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  • I. Lopes de Carvalho

    1. Center for Vector and Infectious Diseases Research, National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal.
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E-mail acgnorte@ci.ic.pt; Tel. (+351) 239 855771; Fax (+351) 239 855789.

Summary

Birds are important in the ecology of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) because they are important hosts for vector tick immature stages and are known reservoirs for some Borrelia genospecies. The aim of our study was to assess the role of common passerine bird species as reservoirs for B. burgdorferi s.l. in Western Europe. We surveyed birds in enzootic areas in Portugal, where no information is available for birds as reservoirs for this aetiologic agent and where B. lusitaniae, for which few reservoirs have been identified, is the dominant genospecies. Twenty-three birds (2.9%), including Turdus merula, T. philomelos, Parus major and Fringilla coelebs harboured infected ticks, but only Turdus sp. harboured infected tick larvae. In one study area, although B. lusitaniae was dominant in questing Ixodes ricinus, no ticks feeding on birds were infected with this genospecies, and B. valaisiana was the dominant genospecies in I. ricinus larvae feeding on birds. In the other area ticks collected from birds were mainly I. frontalis which were infected with B. turdi. Two skin biopsies (4.2%) from two T. merula were positive, one for B. valaisiana and the other for B. turdi. This is the first report for B. turdi in Western Europe.

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