Seasonal dynamics of tick burden and associated Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. and Borrelia miyamotoi infections in rodents in a Dutch forest ecosystem

Duijvendijk, Gilian van; Krijger, Inge; Schaijk, Marloes van; Fonville, Manoj; Gort, Gerrit; Sprong, Hein; Takken, Willem


Ixodes ricinus ticks transmit Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) as well as Borrelia miyamotoi. Larvae become infected when feeding on infected rodents, with horizontal transmission of B. burgdorferi and horizontal and vertical transmission of B. miyamotoi. We studied seasonal dynamics of infection rates of I. ricinus and their rodent hosts, and hence transmission risk of these two distinctly different Borrelia species. Rodents were live-trapped and inspected for ticks from May to November in 2013 and 2014 in a forest in The Netherlands. Trapped rodents were temporarily housed in the laboratory and detached ticks were collected. Borrelia infections were determined from the trapped rodents and collected ticks. Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. and B. miyamotoi were found in ticks as well as in rodents. Rodent density was higher in 2014, whereas tick burden as well as the Borrelia infection rates in rodents were higher in 2013. The density of B. miyamotoi-infected nymphs did not differ between the years. Tick burdens were higher on Apodemus sylvaticus than on Myodes glareolus, and higher on males than on females. Borrelia-infection rate of rodents varied strongly seasonally, peaking in summer. As the larval tick burden also peaked in summer, the generation of infected nymphs was highest in summer. We conclude that the heterogeneity of environmental and host-specific factors affects the seasonal transmission of Borrelia spp., and that these effects act more strongly on horizontally transmitted B. burgdorferi spp. than on the vertically transmitted B. miyamotoi.