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First Record of Ixodes affinis Tick (Acari: Ixodidae) Infected with Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Collected from a Migratory Songbird in Canada

Scott, et al.  Published June 30th, 2016

Migratory songbirds transport hard-bodied ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) into Canada during northward
spring migration, and some of these bird-feeding ticks harbor a wide diversity of pathogenic
microorganisms. In this study, we collected a nymphal Ixodes affinis Neumann from a Common
Yellowthroat, Geothylypis trichas (Linnaeus), at Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec, and it was infected
with the Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) Johnson, Schmid, Hyde,
Steigerwalt & Brenner. Using PCR on this tick extract and DNA sequencing on the borrelial amplicons,
we detected B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.), a genospecies that is pathogenic to people and certain
domestic animals. In addition, we collected an I. affinis nymph from a Swainson’s Thrush, Catharus
ustulatus (Nuttall), at Toronto, Ontario, and a co-feeding nymphal blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis
Say, tested positive for B. burgdorferi s.s. These bird-tick findings constitute the first reports of I. affinis
in Ontario and Québec and, simultaneously, the first report of a B. burgdorferi s.l.-infected I. affinis in
Canada. Since Neotropical and southern temperate songbirds have a rapid flight pace, they are
capable of transporting ticks infected with B. burgdorferi s.l. hundreds of kilometres to Canada. Healthcare
professionals should be cognisant that migratory songbirds can transport diverse genotypes of B.
burgdorferi s.l. into Canada from southern latitudes that may be missed by current Lyme disease
serological tests.

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