Monitoring of Nesting Songbirds Detects Established Population of Blacklegged Ticks and Associated Lyme Disease Endemic Area in Canada

Abstract

This study provides a novel method of documenting established populations of bird-feeding ticks. Single populations of the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, and the rabbit tick, Haemaphysalis leporispalustris, were revealed in southwestern Québec, Canada. Blacklegged tick nymphs and, similarly, larval and nymphal rabbit ticks were tested for the Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (Bbsl), using PCR and the flagellin (flaB) gene, and 14 (42%) of 33 of blacklegged tick nymphs tested were positive. In contrast, larval and nymphal H. leporsipalustris ticks were negative for Bbsl. The occurrence of Bbsl in I. scapularis nymphs brings to light the presence of a Lyme disease endemic area at this songbird nesting locality. Because our findings denote that this area is a Lyme disease endemic area, and I. scapularis is a human-biting tick, local residents and outdoor workers must take preventive measures to avoid tick bites. Furthermore, local healthcare practitioners must include Lyme disease in their differential diagnosis.

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