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Canada: Microbiome Composition and Borrelia Detection in Ixodes scapularis Ticks at the Northwestern Edge of Their Range


Lyme disease-causing Borrelia burgdorferi has been reported in 10–19% of Ixodes ticks from Alberta, Canada, where the tick vector Ixodes scapularis is at the northwestern edge of its range. However, the presence of Borrelia has not been verified independently, and the bacterial microbiome of these ticks has not been described. We performed 16S rRNA bacterial surveys on female I. scapularis from Alberta that were previously qPCR-tested in a Lyme disease surveillance program. Both 16S and qPCR methods were concordant for the presence of Borrelia. The 16S studies also provided a profile of associated bacteria that showed the microbiome of I. scapularis in Alberta was similar to other areas of North America. Ticks that were qPCR-positive for Borrelia had significantly greater bacterial diversity than Borrelia-negative ticks, on the basis of generalized linear model testing. This study adds value to ongoing tick surveillance and is a foundation for deeper understanding of tick microbial ecology and disease transmission in a region where I. scapularis range expansion, induced by climate and land use changes, is likely to have increasing public health implications.

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