Infection rate ofIxodes ricinus ticks withBorrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii, andBorrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto in Slovenia

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Abstract

In spring 1993,Ixodes ricinus ticks were collected from six regions of Slovenia to determine their overall rate of infection withBorrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and to assess the frequency of individual species in these tick populations. Ticks were dissected and midgut tissue inoculated into modified Barbour-Stoenner-Kelly (BSK II) medium.Borrelia isolates were differentiated into separate species using species-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers and by large restriction fragment pattern (LRFP) analysis. Infected ticks were found in all six regions surveyed. Spirochaetes were isolated from 69 of 363 ticks (19 %): the isolation rate from adult female ticks was 35 % (23/66 ticks cultured), from adult male ticks 22 % (20/91), and from nymphal ticks 13 % (26/206). Determination of the species of 60 isolates revealed that 32 wereBorrelia afzelii (53 %), 20 wereBorrelia garinii (33 %), and 8 wereBorrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (13 %). In the Ljubljana regionBorrelia afzelii andBorrelia garinii predominated (43 % and 40 %, respectively), whereasBorrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto constituted only 17 % of isolates. In three other regions of the countryBorrelia afzeliiwas isolated exclusively, although the number of isolates investigated was small. This study demonstrates the presence of all three European species ofBorrelia burgdorferi sensu lato within the Slovenian tick population and also within a geographic area of less than 100 m2.