An invasive mammal (the gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis) commonly hosts diverse and atypical genotypes of the zoonotic pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato

Millins, C. , Magierecka, A., Gilbert, L. , Edoff, A., Brereton, A., Kilbride, E., Denwood, M., Birtles, R. and Biek, R. (2015) An invasive mammal (the gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis) commonly hosts diverse and atypical genotypes of the zoonotic pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 81(13), pp. 4236-4245. (doi:10.1128/AEM.00109-15) (PMID:25888168) (PMCID:PMC447589)

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Abstract

Invasive vertebrate species can act as hosts for endemic pathogens and may alter pathogen community composition and dynamics. For the zoonotic pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the agent of Lyme borreliosis, recent work shows invasive rodent species can be of high epidemiological importance and may support host specific strains. This study examined the role of grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), (n=679), an invasive species in the United Kingdom (UK), as B. burgdorferi s.l. hosts. We found that grey squirrels were frequently infested with Ixodes ricinus, the main vector of B. burgdorferi s.l. in the UK, and 11.9% were infected with B. burgdorferi s.l. All four genospecies which occur in the UK were detected in grey squirrels, and unexpectedly, the bird associated genospecies B. garinii, was most common. The second most frequent infection was with B. afzelli. Genotyping of B. garinii and B. afzelli produced no evidence for strains associated with grey squirrels. Generalised linear mixed models (GLMM) identified tick infestation and date of capture as significant factors associated with B. burgdorferi s.l. infection in grey squirrels, with infection elevated in early summer in squirrels infested with ticks. Invasive grey squirrels appear to become infected with locally circulating strains of B. burgdorferi s.l., further studies are required to determine their role in community disease dynamics. Our findings highlight that the role of introduced host species in B. burgdorferi s.l epidemiology can be highly variable and thus difficult to predict.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Biek, Dr Roman and Denwood, Dr Matthew and Kilbride, Mrs Elizabeth and Gilbert, Dr Lucy and Magierecka, Miss Agnieszka and Millins, Dr Caroline
Authors: Millins, C., Magierecka, A., Gilbert, L., Edoff, A., Brereton, A., Kilbride, E., Denwood, M., Birtles, R., and Biek, R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Publisher:American Society for Microbiology.
ISSN:0099-2240
ISSN (Online):1098-5336
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 Millins et al.
First Published:First published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
500192BBSRC Doctoral Training Grant 2009-15Massimo PalmariniBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/F016786/1MVLS III - CENTRE FOR VIRUS RESEARCH
500193BBSRC Doctoral Training Grant 2009-15Massimo PalmariniBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/F016786/1MVLS III - CENTRE FOR VIRUS RESEARCH
641001Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolenensis) as tick hosts and reservoir hosts of Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease in ScotlandRoman BiekWellcome Trust (WELLCOME)CVRT VS 13 13RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED