Prevalence and predictors of vector-borne pathogens in Dutch roe deer

Wijburg, Sara R.; Fonville, Manoj; Bruin, Arnout de; Rijn, P.A. van; Montizaan, Margriet G.E.; Broek, Jan van den; Sprong, Hein; Rijks, Jolianne M.


Background: The main objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of nine vector-borne pathogens or pathogen genera in roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in the Netherlands, and to identify which host variables predict vector-borne pathogen presence in roe deer. The host variables examined were the four host factors ‘age category’, ‘sex’, ‘nutritional condition’ and ‘health status’, as well as ‘roe deer density’.
Methods: From December 2009 to September 2010, blood samples of 461 roe deer were collected and analysed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the presence of genetic material from Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Bartonella spp., Babesia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.), Borrelia miyamotoi, Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Rickettsia spp., and epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV), and by commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for antibodies against bluetongue virus (BTV). The possible associations of host factors and density with pathogen prevalence and co-infection, and in the case of A. phagocytophilum with bacterial load, were assessed using generalized linear modelling.
Results and conclusion: Analysis revealed the following prevalence in roe deer: A. phagocytophilum 77.9%, Bartonella spp. 77.7%, Babesia spp. 17.4%, Rickettsia spp. 3.3%, B. burgdorferi sensu lato 0.2%. Various co-infections were found, of which A. phagocytophilum and Bartonella spp. (49.7% of infected roe deer) and A. phagocytophilum, Bartonella spp. and Babesia spp. (12.2% of infected roe deer) were the most common. Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia spp., and co-infection prevalence were significantly higher in calves than in adult roe deer, whereas the prevalence of Bartonella spp. was lower in roe deer in good nutritional condition than in deer in poor nutritional condition. Local roe deer density was not associated with pathogen presence. The high prevalence of A. phagocytophilum, Bartonella spp., and Babesia spp. is evidence for the role of roe deer as reservoirs for these pathogens. Additionally, the results suggest a supportive role of roe deer in the life-cycle of Rickettsia spp. in the Netherlands.