Francisella tularensis prevalence and load in Dermacentor reticulatus ticks in an endemic area in Central Europe.

Hubálek Z, Rudolf I, et al.

Institute of Vertebrate Biology, v.v.i., Medical Zoology Laboratory, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Brno, Czech Republic.

Medical and veterinary entomology. Mar 2017.

A total of 7778 host-seeking adult Dermacentor reticulatus (Ixodida: Ixodidae) ticks were examined for the prevalence of Francisella tularensis holarctica (Thiotrichales: Francisellaceae) in a natural focus of tularaemia in the floodplain forest-meadow ecosystem along the lower reaches of the Dyje (Thaya) river in South Moravia (Czech Republic) between 1995 and 2013. Ticks were pooled (10 specimens per pool) and their homogenates inoculated subcutaneously in 4-week-old specific pathogen-free mice. Dead mice were sectioned, their spleens cultivated on thioglycollate-glucose-blood agar and impression smears from the spleen, liver and heart blood were Giemsa-stained. Sixty-four pools were positive for F. tularensis: the overall minimum infection rate (MIR) was 0.82%. Overall MIRs for the 4714 female and 3064 male D. reticulatus examined were 0.89 and 0.72%, respectively; MIRs fluctuated across years between 0.0 and 2.43%. The estimated bacterial load in infected ticks varied from 0.84 to 5.34 log10 infectious F. tularensis cells per tick (i.e. from about seven to 220 000 cells). Ticks with low loads were more prevalent; more than 1000 infectious cells were detected in 24 ticks (0.3% of all ticks and 37.5% of infected ticks). Monitoring of D. reticulatus for the presence and cell numbers of F. tularensis may be a valuable tool in the surveillance of tularaemia.


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