Ticks and Borrelia in urban and peri-urban green space habitats in a city in southern England
Abstract Ticks are becoming increasingly recognised as important vectors of pathogens in urban and peri-urban areas, including green space used for recreational activities. In the UK, the risk posed by ticks in such areas is largely unknown. In order to begin to assess the risk of ticks in urban/peri-urban areas in southern England, questing ticks were collected from five different habitat types (grassland, hedge, park, woodland and woodland edge) in a city during the spring, summer and autumn of 2013/2014 and screened for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. In addition, seasonal differences in B. burgdorferi s.l. prevalence were also investigated at a single site during 2015. Ixodes ricinus presence and activity were significantly higher in woodland edge habitat and during spring surveys. DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. was detected in 18.1% of nymphs collected across the 25 sites during 2013 and 2014 and two nymphs also tested positive for the newly emerging tick-borne pathogen B. miyamotoi . Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. prevalence at a single site surveyed in 2015 were found to be significantly higher during spring and summer than in autumn, with B. garinii and B. valaisiana most commonly detected. These data indicate that a range of habitats within an urban area in southern England support ticks and that urban Borrelia transmission cycles may exist in some of the urban green spaces included in this study. Sites surveyed were frequently used by humans for recreational activities, providing opportunity for exposure to Borrelia infected ticks in an urban/peri-urban space that might not be typically associated with tick-borne disease transmission.
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