Multi-trophic interactions driving the transmission cycle of Borrelia afzelii between Ixodes ricinus and rodents: A review

Gilian Van Duijvendijk*, Hein Sprong, Willem Takken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The tick Ixodes ricinus is the main vector of the spirochaete Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the causal agent of Lyme borreliosis, in the western Palearctic. Rodents are the reservoir host of B. afzelii, which can be transmitted to I. ricinus larvae during a blood meal. The infected engorged larvae moult into infected nymphs, which can transmit the spirochaetes to rodents and humans. Interestingly, even though only about 1 % of the larvae develop into a borreliae-infected nymph, the enzootic borreliae lifecycle can persist. The development from larva to infected nymph is a key aspect in this lifecycle, influencing the density of infected nymphs and thereby Lyme borreliosis risk. The density of infected nymphs varies temporally and geographically and is influenced by multi-trophic (tick-host-borreliae) interactions. For example, blood feeding success of ticks and spirochaete transmission success differ between rodent species and host-finding success appears to be affected by a B. afzelii infection in both the rodent and the tick. In this paper, we review the major interactions between I. ricinus, rodents and B. afzelii that influence this development, with the aim to elucidate the critical factors that determine the epidemiological risk of Lyme borreliosis. The effects of the tick, rodent and B. afzelii on larval host finding, larval blood feeding, spirochaete transmission from rodent to larva and development from larva to nymph are discussed. Nymphal host finding, nymphal blood feeding and spirochaete transmission from nymph to rodent are the final steps to complete the enzootic B. afzelii lifecycle and are included in the review. It is concluded that rodent density, rodent infection prevalence, and tick burden are the major factors affecting the development from larva to infected nymph and that these interact with each other. We suggest that the B. afzelii lifecycle is dependent on the aggregation of ticks among rodents, which is manipulated by the pathogen itself. Better understanding of the processes involved in the development and aggregation of ticks results in more precise estimates of the density of infected nymphs, and hence predictions of Lyme borreliosis risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number643
JournalParasites & Vectors
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2015

Keywords

  • Apodemus
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Ecology
  • Ixodes ricinus
  • Lifecycle
  • Myodes
  • Pathogen transmission
  • Trophic interactions

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