Passive Tick Surveillance: Exploring Spatiotemporal Associations of Borrelia burgdorferi (Spirochaetales: Spirochaetaceae), Babesia microti (Piroplasmida: Babesiidae), and Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Rickettsiales: Anaplasmataceae) Infection in Ixodes scap

Published Date
Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Little EAH
Molaei G

Ixodes scapularis transmits a group of pathogens, including Borrelia burgdorferiBabesia microti, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the causative agents for Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis, respectively. I. scapularis ticks submitted by state residents to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station-Tick Testing Laboratory between 2015 and 2018 were screened using standard PCR and pathogen-specific primers. Infection and coinfection prevalence in I. scapularis was estimated to assess differences in infection status by life stage (nymph or adult female), county, and year, as well as whether infection with B. burgdorferi changes the likelihood of infection with either B. microti or A. phagocytophilum. Of the 11,254 I. scapularis acquired in Connecticut, 40.7% tested positive for at least one pathogen and the remaining 59.3% were negative. Most I. scapularis ticks tested positive for a single pathogen (33.6%), and only 7.2% were infected with more than one pathogen, of which 93.2% were identified with dual infection and 6.8% tested positive for all three pathogens. Adults were more likely than nymphs to be infected or coinfected with these pathogens. Furthermore, we found that ticks were 74% more likely to be infected with B. microti and 98% more likely to be infected with A. phagocytophilum if infected with B. burgdorferi compared with those not infected. We did not find spatial differences in infection or coinfection prevalence, but between 2015 and 2018, the likelihood that a tick was coinfected increased with time. These results from Connecticut, an endemic state for Lyme disease with long-established populations of I. scapularis, suggest that the increased likelihood of coinfection prevalence over time may have significant implications for clinical diagnosis, course, severity, and treatment of human disease cases.

Keywords: Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Babesia microti; Borrelia burgdorferi; Connecticut; Ixodes scapularis; passive surveillance.