Detection of Microbial Agents in Ticks Collected from Migratory Birds in Central Italy


Online Ahead of Print: February 27, 2014

Author information

Luciano Toma,1,*

*These authors contributed equally to this work.

Fabiola Mancini,1,* Marco Di Luca,1 Jacopo G. Cecere,2,6 Riccardo Bianchi,1 Cristina Khoury,1 Elisa Quarchioni,3 Francesca Manzia,4 Giovanni Rezza,1 and Alessandra Ciervo1

1Department of Infectious, Parasitic and Immuno-mediated Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.
2Ricerca Fauna, Rome, Italy.
3National Centre for Epidemiology, Surveillance and Health Promotion, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.
4Centro di Recupero per la Fauna Selvatica–LIPU, Rome, Italy.
6Present address: Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), Via Cà Fornacetta 9, 400064 Ozzano dell’Emilia, Italy.
Address correspondence to:
Dr Alessandra Ciervo
Department of Infectious, parasitic and Immune-Mediated Diseases 

Istituto Superiore di Sanità

Viale Regina Elena 299

Italy E-mail: alessandra.ciervo@iss.it


Tick species characterization and molecular studies were performed within ornithological surveys conducted during 2010 and 2011 in the Lazio Region of central Italy. A total of 137 ticks were collected from 41 migratory birds belonging to 17 species (four partial migrants and 13 long-distance migrants). Most ticks were nymphs, with a predominance of Hyalomma marginatum marginatum and H. m. rufipes, and a small portion of Ixodes and Amblyomma species.

All tick species analyzed were infected, and the molecular pathogen recognition revealed the presence of Rickettsia aeschlimannii, Rickettsia africae, Erlichia spp., Coxiella burnetii, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato group, and Babesia microti, whereas no genomic DNA of Bartonella spp. or Francisella tularensis was detected.

The results of the survey show that H. marginatum ticks appear to be a vector of microbial agents that may affect human and animal health and that migratory birds may be an important carrier of these ticks. Additional studies are needed to better investigate the role of migratory birds in the epidemiology of these pathogens.


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