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Background: In the South of Kazakhstan, Almaty Oblast (region) is endemic for tick-borne encephalitis, with 0.16-0.32 cases/100,000 population between 2016-2018. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and circulating subtypes of tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) in Almaty Oblast and Kyzylorda Oblast. Methods: In 2015 we investigated 2341 ticks from 7 sampling sites for the presence of TBEV. Ticks were pooled in 501 pools and isolated RNA was tested for the presence of TBEV by RT-qPCR. For the positive samples, the E gene was amplified, sequenced and a phylogenetic analysis was carried out. Results: A total of 48 pools were TBEV-positive by the RT-qPCR. TBEV-positive ticks were only detected in three districts of Almaty Oblast and not in Kyzylorda Oblast. The positive TBEV pools were found within Ixodes persulcatus, Haemaphysalis punctata and Dermacentor marginatus. These tick species prevailed only in Almaty Oblast whereas in Kyzylorda Oblast Hyalomma asiaticum and D. marginatus are endemic. The minimum infection rates (MIR) in the sampling sites were 4.4% in Talgar, 2.8% in Tekeli and 1.1% in Yenbekshikazakh, respectively. The phylogenetic analysis of the generated sequences indicates that TBEV strains found in Almaty Oblast clusters in the Siberian subtype within two different clades. Conclusions: We provided new data about the TBEV MIR in ticks in Almaty Oblast and showed that TBEV clusters in the Siberian Subtype in two different clusters at the nucleotide level. These results indicate that there are different influences on the circulating TBEV strains in south-eastern Kazakhstan. These influences might be caused by different routes of the virus spread in ticks which might bring different genetic TBEV lineages to Kazakhstan. The new data about the virus distribution and vectors provided here will contribute to an improvement of monitoring of tick-borne infections and timely anti-epidemic measures in Kazakhstan.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]
Abdiyeva, K., Turebekov, N., Yegemberdiyeva, R., Dmitrovskiy, A., Yeraliyeva, L., Shapiyeva, Z., … Frey, S. (2020). Vectors, molecular epidemiology and phylogeny of TBEV in Kazakhstan and central Asia. Parasites and Vectors, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-020-04362-1