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Host-seeking activity of Ixodes ricinus in relation to the epidemiology of Lyme borreliosis in Sweden

by Mejlon, Hans

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis examines seasonal, diel and vertical distribution patterns of activity of host-seeking Ixodes ricinus (L.) ticks at three localities in south-central Sweden. In addition, by examining the prevalence of infection in ticks with Lyme borreliosis (LB) spirochetes, Borrelia burgdorferi s.l, information for estimating relative LB risk in humans and the effect of control measures directed against this tick vector is provided.The seasonal activity pattern of I. ricinus was, in general, bimodal with peaks of activity in May-June and August-September. Tick densities were generally high at Torö and low at Kungshamn-Morga. The greatest variation in tick density occurred at the sample site level, which indicated a patchy distribution of ticks. The diel activity of adult I. ricinus sampled at Bogesund showed a distinct nocturnal activity peak while nymphal ticks exhibited no particular diel variation. At the meadow site, there was a strong negative association between activity of each tick stage and ambient air temperature, and larval ticks also showed a nocturnal activity peak. I. ricinus of all stages were present in the vegetation up to at least 140 cm above ground level. At Torö, host-seeking larvae were found at significantly lower levels (below 20 cm) in the vegetation compared to nymphs and adults (50-59 and 60-79 cm, respectively). Vegetation structure is likely to be the main factor governing tick vertical distribution at this locality. The northern limit of the geographical distribution of I. ricinus in Sweden corresponds with the southern boundary of the taiga zone, as well as with several other climatic or vegetational isoclines primarily associated with the vegetation period.The prevalence rates of Borrelia spirochetes, recorded by phase-contrast microscopy in host-seeking I. ricinus, were 0% in larvae, 5.8-13.1% in nymphs and 14.5-28.6% in adult ticks. The human LB risk, estimated by the number of Borrelia-infected nymphs per hectare, was greater at Torö than at Kungshamn-Morga and greater in woodland than in open areas. The risk also possessed a bimodal seasonal pattern similar to that of subadult host-seeking activity. Controlling the number of infected nymphs through de-ticking of reservoir hosts seems not to be an effective control measure in Sweden due to the ubiquitous availability of alternative reservoir hosts.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Uppsala universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Biology; Organism biology; Developmental biology; Developmental biology; Borrelia burgdorferi; control; Ixodes ricinus; Lyme borreliosis; seasonality; Utvecklingsbiologi; entomologi; Entomology

ISBN:91-554-4842-9

Date of Publication:01/01/2000

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