Ixodes inopinatus in northern Germany : occurrence and potential vector role for Borrelia spp., Rickettsia spp., and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in comparison with Ixodes ricinus
In 2014, a new tick species, Ixodes inopinatus, was described, which is closely related to Ixodes ricinus. So far, I. inopinatus has been found in Tunisia, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Austria, and southern Germany. No data is yet available regarding occurrence of I. inopinatus in northern Germany and the potential role of I. inopinatus as a vector for tick-borne pathogens. Therefore, 3845 DNA samples from Ixodes ticks collected for prevalence studies on Borrelia spp., Rickettsia spp., and Anaplasma phagocytophilum during the years 2010-2015 in the northern German cities of Hamburg and Hanover were differentiated into I. ricinus or I. inopinatus by sequencing a part of the 16S rRNA gene. In total, 4% (137/3845) of the sequenced ticks were assigned to the species I. inopinatus and 96% (3708/3845) to I. ricinus. The prevalence of Borrelia spp., Rickettsia spp., and A. phagocytophilum DNA in I. inopinatus was 34% (46/137), 46% (63/137), and 3% (4/137), respectively, whereas the prevalence of these bacteria in I. ricinus was 25% (919/3708), 47% (1729/3708), and 4% (135/3708), respectively. Compared with I. ricinus, significantly more I. inopinatus ticks tested positive for Borrelia. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of I. inopinatus in northern Germany. Detection of the DNA of Borrelia spp., Rickettsia spp., and A. phagocytophilum in questing I. inopinatus indicates a potential role of this tick species as a vector of these pathogens, which needs to be confirmed by transmission experiments.