Background: Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes persulcatus are the main vectors of Lyme borreliosis spirochetes and several other zoonotic bacteria in northern Europe and Russia. However, few studies screening bacterial pathogens in Finnish ticks have been conducted. Therefore, reports on the occurrence and prevalence of several bacterial pathogens detected from ticks elsewhere in Europe and Russia are altogether missing from Finland. The main aim of the current study was to produce novel data on the occurrence and prevalence of several tick-borne bacterial pathogens in ticks collected from southwestern Finland. Methods: Ticks were collected in 2013-2014 by blanket dragging from 25 localities around southwestern Finland, and additionally from a dog in Lempäälä. Collected ticks were molecularly identified and screened for Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., Borrelia miyamotoi, Rickettsia, Bartonella and Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis using quantitative PCR. Furthermore, detected Rickettsia spp. were sequenced using conventional PCR to determine species. Results: A total of 3169 ticks in 1174 DNA samples were screened for the listed pathogens. The most common bacteria detected was B. burgdorferi (s.l.) (18.5 % nymphal and 23.5 % adult ticks), followed by Rickettsia spp. (1.1 %; 5.1 %) and B. miyamotoi (0.51 %; 1.02 %). B. miyamotoi and Rickettsia spp. were also detected in larval samples (minimum infection rates 0.31 % and 0.21 %, respectively). Detected Rickettsia spp. were identified by sequencing as R. helvetica and R. monacensis. All screened samples were negative for Bartonella spp. and Ca. N. mikurensis. Conclusions: In the current study we report for the first time the presence of Rickettsia in Finnish ticks. Furthermore, Rickettsia spp. and B. miyamotoi were found from larval tick samples, emphasizing the importance they may have as vectors of these pathogens. Comparisons of tick density estimates and B. burgdorferi (s.l.) prevalence made between the current study and a previous study conducted in 2000 in ten out of the 25 study localities suggest that an increase in tick abundance and B. burgdorferi (s.l.) prevalence has occurred in at least some of the study localities.
Sormunen, J. J., Penttinen, R., Klemola, T., Hänninen, J., Vuorinen, I., Laaksonen, M., … Vesterinen, E. J. (2016). Tick-borne bacterial pathogens in southwestern Finland. Parasites and Vectors, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-016-1449-x