Quantitative microbial population study reveals geographical differences in bacterial symbionts of Ixodes ricinus

Krawczyk, Aleksandra Iwona; Röttjers, Lisa; Fonville, Manoj; Takumi, Katsuhisa; Takken, Willem; Faust, Karoline; Sprong, Hein


Ixodes ricinus ticks vector pathogens that cause serious health concerns. Like in other arthropods, the microbiome may affect tick biology, with consequences for pathogen transmission. Here, we explored the bacterial communities of I. ricinus across its developmental stages and six geographic locations by the 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, combined with quantification of the bacterial load. Our results show that the microbiome of I. ricinus is highly variable, but changes gradually, and ticks originating from geographically close forest sites express similar bacterial communities. This suggests that geography-related factors affect the infection rates of vertically-transmitted symbionts in I. ricinus. Since some symbionts, such as R. helvetica can cause disease in humans, we propose that public health investigations consider geographical differences in its infection rates.