Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia miyamotoi in Atlantic Canadian wildlife

Abstract

Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia miyamotoi are tick-vectored zoonotic pathogens maintained in wildlife species. Tick populations are establishing in new areas globally in response to climate change and other factors. New Brunswick is a Canadian maritime province at the advancing front of tick population establishment and has seen increasing numbers of ticks carrying Bburgdorferi, and more recently Bmiyamotoi. Further, it is part of a region of Atlantic Canada with wildlife species composition differing from much of continental North America and little information exists as to the presence and frequency of infection of Borrelia spp. in wildlife in this region. We used a citizen science approach to collect a wide range of animals including migratory birds, medium-sized mammals, and small mammals. In total we tested 339 animals representing 20 species for the presence of Bburgdorferi and Bmiyamotoi. We have developed new nested PCR primers and a protocol with excellent specificity for detecting both of these Borrelia species, both single and double infections, in tissues and organs of various wildlife species. The positive animals were primarily small non-migratory mammals, approximately twice as many were infected with Bburgdorferi than Bmiyamotoi and one animal was found infected with both. In addition to established reservoir species, the jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis) was found frequently infected; this species had the highest infection prevalence for both Bburgdorferi and Bmiyamotoi and has not previously been identified as an important carrier for either Borrelia species. Comprehensive testing of tissues found that all instances of Bburgdorferi infection were limited to one tissue within the host, whereas two of the five Bmiyamotoi infections were diffuse and found in multiple systems. In the one coinfected specimen, two fetuses were also recovered and found infected with Bmiyamotoi. This presumptive transplacental transmission suggests that vertical transmission in mammals is possible. This finding implies that Bmiyamotoi could rapidly spread into wildlife populations, as well as having potential human health implications.

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