#Polymicrobial Nature of #Tick-Borne #Diseases (mBio, abstract)

[Source: mBio, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Polymicrobial Nature of Tick-Borne Diseases

Santiago Sanchez-Vicente, Teresa Tagliafierro, James L. Coleman, Jorge L. Benach, Rafal Tokarz

Liise-anne Pirofski, Editor

DOI: 10.1128/mBio.02055-19



Tick-borne diseases have doubled in the last 12 years, and their geographic distribution has spread as well. The clinical spectrum of tick-borne diseases can range from asymptomatic to fatal infections, with a disproportionate incidence in children and the elderly. In the last few years, new agents have been discovered, and genetic changes have helped in the spread of pathogens and ticks. Polymicrobial infections, mostly in Ixodes scapularis, can complicate diagnostics and augment disease severity. Amblyomma americanum ticks have expanded their range, resulting in a dynamic and complex situation, possibly fueled by climate change. To document these changes, using molecular biology strategies for pathogen detection, an assessment of 12 microbes (9 pathogens and 3 symbionts) in three species of ticks was done in Suffolk County, New York. At least one agent was detected in 63% of I. scapularis ticks. Borrelia burgdorferi was the most prevalent pathogen (57% in adults; 27% in nymphs), followed by Babesia microti (14% in adults; 15% in nymphs), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (14% in adults; 2% in nymphs), Borrelia miyamotoi (3% in adults), and Powassan virus (2% in adults). Polymicrobial infections were detected in 22% of I. scapularis ticks, with coinfections of B. burgdorferi and B. microti (9%) and of B. burgdorferi and A. phagocytophilum (7%). Three Ehrlichia species were detected in 4% of A. americanum ticks. The rickettsiae constituted the largest prokaryotic biomass of all the ticks tested and included Rickettsia amblyommatis, Rickettsia buchneri, and Rickettsia montanensis. The high rates of polymicrobial infection in ticks present an opportunity to study the biological interrelationships of pathogens and their vectors.



Tick-borne diseases have increased in prevalence in the United States and abroad. The reasons for these increases are multifactorial, but climate change is likely to be a major factor. One of the main features of the increase is the geographic expansion of tick vectors, notably Amblyomma americanum, which has brought new pathogens to new areas. The clinical spectrum of tick-borne diseases can range from asymptomatic to fatal infections, with a disproportionate incidence in children and the elderly. In addition, new pathogens that are cotransmitted by Ixodes scapularis have been discovered and have led to difficult diagnoses and to disease severity. Of these, Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, continues to be the most frequently transmitted pathogen. However, Babesia microti, Borrelia miyamotoi (another spirochete), Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and Powassan virus are frequent cotransmitted agents. Polymicrobial infection has important consequences for the diagnosis and management of tick-borne diseases.

Keywords: Tick-borne diseases; Powassan virus; Borrelia burgorferi; Infectious diseases.


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Giuseppe Michieli

I am an Italian blogger, active since 2005 with main focus on emerging infectious diseases such as avian influenza, SARS, antibiotics resistance, and many other global Health issues. Other fields of interest are: climate change, global warming, geological and biological sciences. My activity consists mainly in collection and analysis of news, public services updates, confronting sources and making decision about what are the 'signals' of an impending crisis (an outbreak, for example). When a signal is detected, I follow traces during the entire course of an event. I started in 2005 my blog ''A TIME'S MEMORY'', now with more than 40,000 posts and 3 millions of web interactions. Subsequently I added an Italian Language blog, then discontinued because of very low traffic and interest. I contributed for seven years to a public forum (FluTrackers.com) in the midst of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, I left the site to continue alone my data tracking job.