Imported Hyalomma ticks in Germany in 2018
BACKGROUND:Hyalomma marginatum and Hyalomma rufipes are two-host tick species, which are mainly distributed in southern Europe, Africa and middle-eastern Asia. They are well-known vectors of Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus and other viruses as well as Rickettsia aeschlimannii. In recent years, these tick species have been found sporadically in Germany, but they do not belong to the autochthonous tick fauna in Germany. METHODS:Ticks with unusual morphology were collected and sent from private persons or public health offices to involve institutions for morphological identification and further testing. All ticks identified as Hyalomma spp. were tested using molecular detection methods for CCHF virus, Rickettsia spp., Coxiella burnetii and Coxiella-like organisms, Babesia spp. and Theileria spp. RESULTS:Thirty-five ticks with an unusual appearance or behaviour were reported to us during summer-autumn 2018. For 17 of them, the description or photos implied that they belong to the hard tick genus Hyalomma. The remaining 18 ticks were sent to us and were identified as adult Hyalomma marginatum (10 specimens) or adult Hyalomma rufipes (8 specimens). All ticks tested negative for CCHF virus, Coxiella burnetii, Coxiella-like organisms, Babesia spp. and Theileria spp. The screening for rickettsiae gave positive results in 9 specimens . The Rickettsia species in all cases was identified as R. aeschlimannii. CONCLUSIONS:These results show that exotic tick species imported into Germany were able to develop from the nymphal to the adult stage under appropriate weather conditions. Fifty percent of the ticks carried R. aeschlimannii, a human pathogen, while CCHF virus or other pathogens were not detected. Imported Hyalomma ticks may be the source of exotic diseases acquired in Germany.