Distribution and molecular detection of Theileria and Babesia in questing ticks from northern Spain

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A total of 562 questing adult ixodid ticks, collected during 2003−05 in 10 recreational mountain areas in northern Spain, were analysed for piroplasm infection. Reverse line blot (RLB) analysis using a panel of probes for 23 piroplasm species identified 16 different piroplasms, with an overall prevalence of 9.3%. Most were Theileria spp.-positive (7.7%), 3.0% were positive for Babesia spp. and 1.4% of ticks harboured both genera. Ixodes ricinus(Linnaeus, 1758), the most abundant tick in the vegetation, ranked third with regard to piroplasm infection prevalence (11.4%) after Rhipicephalus bursa(Canestrini & Fanzago, 1878) (16.0%) and Haemaphysalis punctata(Canestrini & Fanzago, 1878) (13.5%). Infection was detected in 6.2% of Dermacentor reticulatus(Fabricius, 1794) and in 1.1% of Haemaphysalis inermis(Birula, 1895), but was absent from Haemaphysalis concinna(Koch, 1844). Ixodes ricinus carried more piroplasm species (13), followed by H. punctata(10), D. reticulatus(8), R. bursa(3) and H. inermis(1). Although most of the positive ticks harboured a single infection (76.9%), mixed infections with two or three different piroplasm species were also detected (23.1%). The various tick−pathogen associations found are discussed and prevalences of infection in ticks are compared with previous results on piroplasms infecting animals in the same region.

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