Variations in Ixodes ricinus Density and Borrelia Infections Associated with Cattle Introduced into a Woodland in The Netherlands

F. Gassner, P.G.H. Verbaarschot, R.C. Smallegange, J. Spitzen, S.E. van Wieren, W. Takken

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of introduced large herbivores on the abundance of Ixodes ricinus ticks and their Borrelia infections was studied in a natural woodland in The Netherlands. Oak and pine plots, either ungrazed or grazed by cattle, were selected. Ticks were collected weekly by blanket dragging. Borrelia infections were determined by PCR and restriction fragment length polymorphism. Rodent densities were estimated using mark-release-recapture methods. On occasion, the cattle were inspected for tick infestations. Meteorological data were recorded for each habitat. Significantly more ticks were collected in the ungrazed woodland than in the grazed woodland. The ungrazed oak habitat had higher tick densities than the pine habitat, while in the grazed habitats, tick densities were similar. Borrelia infection rates ranged from zero in larvae to 26% in nymphs to 33% in adult ticks, and B. afzelii, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. garinii, and B. valaisiana were the species involved. Coinfections were found in five ticks. There was no effect of the presence of cattle on Borrelia infections in the ticks. In the ungrazed area, Borrelia infections in nymphs were significantly higher in the oak habitat than in the pine habitat. More mice were captured in the ungrazed area, and these had a significantly higher tick burden than mice from the grazed area. Tick burden on cattle was low. The results suggest that grazing has a negative effect on small rodents as well as on ticks but not on Borrelia infections. Implications of these results for management of woodland reserves and risk of Lyme disease are discussed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7138-7144
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • burgdorferi sensu-lato
  • lyme borreliosis
  • ticks acari
  • ixodidae
  • transmission
  • infestation
  • prevalence
  • rodents
  • ehrlichia
  • afzelii


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