Songbirds as general transmitters but selective amplifiers of **Borrelia burgdorferi** sensu lato genotypes in **Ixodes rinicus** ticks
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Environmental microbiology. - Oxford
, p. 2859-2868
University of Antwerp
We investigated to what extent a European songbird (Parus major) selectively transmits and amplifies Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. bacteria. Borrelia-naïve birds were recurrently exposed to Ixodes ricinus nymphs carrying a community of more than 34 5S23S genotypes belonging to five genospecies (Borrelia garinii, Borrelia valaisiana, Borrelia afzelii, B. burgdorferi s.s. and Borrelia spielmanii). Fed ticks were screened for Borrelia after moulting. We found evidence for co-feeding transmission of avian and possibly also mammalian genotypes. Throughout the course of infestations, the infection rate of B. garinii and B. valaisiana increased, indicating successful amplification and transmission, while the infection rate for B. afzelii, B. burgdorferi s.s and B. spielmanii tended to decrease. Within the B. garinii and B. valaisiana genotype communities, certain genotypes were transmitted more than others. Moreover, birds were able to host mixed infections of B. garinii and B. valaisiana, as well as mixed infections of genotypes of the same genospecies. We experimentally show that resident songbirds transmit a broad range of Borrelia genotypes, but selectively amplify certain genotypes, and that one bird can transmit simultaneously several genotypes. Our results highlight the need to explicitly consider the association between genotypes and hosts, which may offer opportunities to point out which hosts are most responsible for the Borrelia presence in questing ticks.