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New research shows risk for Lyme borreliosis in cities is much the same as in forested areas.

[CanLyme noteThis should be done in Canadian cities]

Published Nov. 21, 2017 Parasites and Vectors

Ticks and the city – are there any differences between city parks and natural forests in terms of tick abundance and prevalence of spirochaetes?



Ixodes ricinus ticks are commonly encountered in either natural or urban areas, contributing to Lyme disease agents Borreliella [(Borrelia burgdorferi (sensu lato)] spp. and Borrelia miyamotoi enzootic cycles in cities. It is an actual problem whether urbanization affects pathogen circulation and therefore risk of infection. The aim of the study was to evaluate main tick-borne disease risk factors in natural, endemic areas of north-east (NE) Poland (Białowieża) and urban areas of central Poland (Warsaw), measuring tick abundance/density, prevalence of infection with spirochaetes and diversity of these pathogens in spring-early summer and late summer-autumn periods between 2012 and 2015.


Questing I. ricinus ticks were collected from three urban sites in Warsaw, central Poland and three natural sites in Białowieża, NE Poland. A total of 2993 ticks were analyzed for the presence of Borreliella spp. and/or Borrelia miyamotoi DNA by PCR. Tick abundance was analyzed by General Linear Models (GLM). Prevalence and distribution of spirochaetes was analyzed by Maximum Likelihood techniques based on log-linear analysis of contingency tables (HILOGLINEAR). Species typing and molecular phylogenetic analysis based on the sequenced flaB marker were carried out.


Overall 4617 I. ricinus ticks were collected (2258 nymphs and 2359 adults). We report well established population of ticks in urban areas (10.1 ± 0.9 ticks/100 m2), as in endemic natural areas with higher mean tick abundance (16.5 ± 1.5 ticks/100 m2). Tick densities were the highest in spring-early summer in both types of areas. We observed no effect of the type of area on Borreliella spp. and B. miyamotoi presence in ticks, resulting in similar prevalence of spirochaetes in urban and natural areas [10.9% (95% CI: 9.7–12.2%) vs 12.4% (95% CI: 10.1–15.1%), respectively]. Prevalence of spirochaetes was significantly higher in the summer-autumn period than in the spring-early summer [15.0% (95% CI: 12.8–17.5%) vs 10.4% (95% CI: 9.2–11.6%), respectively]. We have detected six species of bacteria present in both types of areas, with different frequencies: dominance of B. afzelii (69.3%) in urban and B. garinii (48.1%) in natural areas. Although we observed higher tick densities in forests than in maintained parks, the prevalence of spirochaetes was significantly higher in the latter [9.8% (95% CI: 8.6–11.0%) vs 17.5% (95% CI: 14.4–20.5%)].


Surprisingly, a similar risk of infection with Borreliella spp. and/or B. miyamotoi was discovered in highly- and low-transformed areas. We suggest that the awareness of presence of these disease agents in cities should be raised.

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