Experimental & Applied Acarology

, Volume 33, Issue 1–2, pp 93–102 | Cite as

Neotrombicula autumnalis (Acari, Trombiculidae) as a vector for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato?

  • H. Kampen
  • A. Schöler
  • M. Metzen
  • R. Oehme
  • K. Hartelt
  • P. Kimmig
  • W. A. Maier


Larvae of the trombiculid mite Neotrombicula autumnalis were collected at 18 sites in and around Bonn, Germany, to be screened for infection with Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. by means of PCR. Questing larvae numbering 1380 were derived from the vegetation and 634 feeding ones were removed from 100 trapped micromammals including voles, mice, shrews and hedgehogs. In a laboratory infection experiment, a further 305 host-seeking larvae from the field were transferred onto Borrelia-positive mice and gerbils, and examined for spirochete infection at various intervals after repletion. In three cases borrelial DNA could be amplified from the mites: (1) from a larva feeding on a wild-caught greater white-toothed shrew (Crocidura russula), (2) from a pool of four larvae feeding on a B. garinii-positive laboratory mouse, and (3) from a nymph that had fed on a B. afzelii-positive laboratory gerbil as a larva. In the first case, borrelial species determination by DNA hybridization of the PCR product was only possible with a B. burgdorferi complex-specific probe but not with a species-specific one. In the second case, probing showed the same borrelial genospecies (B. garinii) as the laboratory host had been infected with. In the latter case, however, DNA hybridization demonstrated B. valaisiana while the laboratory host had been infected with B. afzelii. Subsequent DNA sequencing confirmed much higher similarity of the PCR product to B. valaisiana than to B. afzelii indicating an infection of the mite prior to feeding on the laboratory host. The negligible percentage of positive mites found in this study suggests that either the uptake of borrelial cells by feeding trombiculids is an extremely rare event or that ingested spirochetes are rapidly digested. On the other hand, the results imply a possible transstadial and transovarial transmission of borreliae once they are established in their trombiculid host. However, unless the transmission of borreliae to a given host is demonstrated, a final statement on the vector competence of trombiculid mites is not possible.

Borrelia burgdorferi Neotrombicula autumnalis Transovarial transmission Transstadial transmission Trombiculid mite Vector competence 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Kampen
    • 1
  • A. Schöler
    • 1
  • M. Metzen
    • 1
  • R. Oehme
    • 2
  • K. Hartelt
    • 2
  • P. Kimmig
    • 2
  • W. A. Maier
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Medical ParasitologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  2. 2.State Health Office Baden-WuerttembergStuttgartGermany

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