Detection and identification of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia burgdorferi, and Rickettsia helvetica in Danish Ixodes ricinus ticks

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Borreliosis is an endemic infection in Denmark. Recent serosurveys have indicated that human anaplasmosis may be equally common. The aim of this study was to look for Anaplasma phagocytophilum and related pathogens in Ixodes ricinus ticks and estimate their prevalence, compared to Borrelia, using PCR. Ticks were collected from three locations in Denmark: Jutland, Funen, and Bornholm. Ticks from Jutland and Funen were analysed individually, ticks from Bornholm were analysed in pools of 20. A. phagocytophilum was found in ticks from all areas. A. phagocytophilum was found in 23.6% of ticks from Jutland and Funen, while 11% were positive for Borrelia burgdorferi. The Borrelia genotype B. afzelii was most prevalent, followed by B. valaisiana, B. burgdorferi s.s. and B. garinii. A. phagocytophilum was found in 14.5% of nymphs and 40.5% of adult ticks, while Borrelia was found in 13% of nymphs and 8% of adult ticks. The difference in prevalence between Anaplasma and Borrelia in adult ticks supports the idea that their maintenance cycles in nature may be different. Ticks were also infected with Rickettsia helvetica. Our study indicates that A. phagocytophilum prevalence in ticks in Denmark is as high as Borrelia prevalence and that human anaplasmosis may be unrecognized.

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