Presence of Babesia odocoilei and Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Stricto in a Tick and Dual Parasitism of Amblyomma inornatum and Ixodes scapularis on a Bird in Canada

John D. Scott, Kerry L. Clark  and Lance A. Durden  published 20 March 2019

Abstract: Wild birds transport ticks into Canada that harbor a diversity of zoonotic pathogens.
However, medical practitioners often question how these zoonotic pathogens are present in their
locality. In this study, we provide the first report of an Amblyomma inornatum tick cofeeding with
a blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, which parasitized a Veery, Catharus fuscescens—a neotropical
songbird. Using the flagellin (flaB) gene of the Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu
lato, and the 18S rRNA gene of the Babesia piroplasm, a malaria-like microorganism, we detected
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto and Babesia odocoilei, respectively, in an I. scapularis nymph. After the
molt, these ticks can bite humans. Furthermore, this is the first-ever documentation of B. odocoilei
in a tick parasitizing a bird. Our findings substantiate the fact that migratory songbirds transport
neotropical ticks long distances, and import them into Canada during northward spring migration.
Health care practitioners need to be aware that migratory songbirds transport pathogen-laden ticks
into Canada annually, and pose an unforeseen health risk to Canadians.

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