Seasonal patterns and spatial variation of Borrelia burgdorferi (sensu lato) infections in Ixodes ricinus in the Netherlands

Nienke Hartemink*, Arnold J.H. van Vliet, Gerrit Gort, Fedor Gassner, Frans Jacobs, Manoj Fonville, Willem Takken, Hein Sprong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The incidence of Lyme borreliosis varies over time and space through as yet incompletely understood mechanisms. In Europe, Lyme borreliosis is caused by infection with a Borrelia burgdorferi (s.l.) genospecies, which is primarily transmitted by a bite of Ixodes ricinus nymphs. The aim of this study was to investigate the spatial and temporal variation in nymphal infection prevalence of B. burgdorferi (s.l.) (NIP), density of questing nymphs (DON) and the resulting density of infected nymphs (DIN).
We investigated the infection rates in I. ricinus nymphs that were collected monthly between 2009 and 2016 in 12 locations in the Netherlands. Using generalized linear mixed models, we explored how the NIP, DON and DIN varied during the seasons, between years and between locations. We also determined the genospecies of the Borrelia infections and investigated whether the genospecies composition differed between locations.
The overall NIP was 14.7%. A seasonal pattern in infection prevalence was observed, with higher estimated prevalences in the summer than in the spring and autumn. This, combined with higher nymphal densities in summer, resulted in a pronounced summer peak in the estimated DIN. Over the 7.5-year study period, a significant decrease in infection prevalence was found, as well as a significant increase in nymphal density. These two effects appear to cancel each other out; the density of infected nymphs, which is the product of NIP × DON, showed no significant trend over years. Mean infection prevalence (NIP, averaged over all years and all months) varied considerably between locations, ranging from 5 to 26%. Borrelia genospecies composition differed between locations: in some locations almost all infections consisted of B. afzelii, whereas other locations had more diverse genospecies compositions.
In the Netherlands, the summer peak in DIN is a result of peaks in both NIP and DON. No significant trend in DIN was observed over the years of the study, and variations in DIN between locations were mostly a result of the variation in DON. There were considerable differences in acarological risk between areas in terms of infection prevalence and densities of ticks as well as in Borrelia genospecies composition.
Original languageEnglish
Article number121
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2021


  • Acarological risk
  • Lyme borreliosis
  • Prevalence
  • Seasonality


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