Ticks transmit more pathogens-including bacteria, parasites and viruses-than any other arthropod vector. Although the epidemiological status of many tick-borne bacteria is very well characterized, tick-borne viruses are still relatively under-studied. Recently, several novel tick-borne viruses have been isolated from human febrile illnesses following tick bites, indicating the existence of other potential new and unknown tick-borne viruses. We used high-throughput sequencing to analyse the virome of Ixodes ricinus, the main vector of tick-borne pathogens in Europe. The majority of collected viral sequences were assigned to two potentially novel Nairovirus and Phlebovirus viruses, with prevalence rates ranging from 3.95% to 23.88% in adults and estimated to be between 0.14% and 72.16% in nymphs. These viruses could not be isolated from the brains of inoculated immunocompromised mice, perhaps indicating that they are unable to infect vertebrates. Within the I. ricinus virome, we also identified contigs with >90% identity to the known Eyach virus. Initially isolated in the 1980s, this virus was indirectly associated with human disease, but had never been extensively studied. Eyach virus prevalence varied between 0.07% and 5.26% in ticks from the French Ardennes and Alsace regions. Eyach virus was successfully isolated following intracerebral inoculation of immunocompromised mice with Eyach virus-positive tick extracts. This virus was also able to multiply and persist in the blood of immunocompetent mice inoculated by intraperitoneal injection, and caused brain infections in three of nine juveniles, without any obvious deleterious effects.
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