Identification of Ixodes ricinus blood meals using an automated protocol with high resolution melting analysis HRMA reveals the importance of domestic dogs as larval tick hosts in Italian alpine forestsReportar como inadecuado

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Parasites and Vectors

, 9:638

First Online: 12 December 2016Received: 20 June 2016Accepted: 21 November 2016


BackgroundIn Europe, Ixodes ricinus L. is the main vector of a variety of zoonotic pathogens, acquired through blood meals taken once per stage from a vertebrate host. Defining the main tick hosts in a given area is important for planning public health interventions; however, until recently, no robust molecular methods existed for blood meal identification from questing ticks. Here we improved the time- and cost-effectiveness of an HRMA protocol for blood meal analysis and used it to identify blood meal sources of sheep tick larvae from Italian alpine forests.

MethodsNine hundred questing nymphs were collected using blanket-dragging in 18 extensive forests and 12 forest patches close to rural villages in the Province of Trento. Total DNA was either extracted manually, with the QIAamp DNA Investigator kit, or automatically using the KingFisher™ Flex Magnetic Particle Processors KingFisher Cell and Tissue DNA Kit. Host DNA was amplified with six independent host group real-time PCR reactions and identified by means of HRMA. Statistical analyses were performed in R to assess the variables important for achieving successful identification and to compare host use in the two types of forest.

ResultsAutomating DNA extraction improved time- and cost-effectiveness of the HRMA protocol, but identification success fell to 22.4% KingFisher™ from 55.1% QIAamp, with larval hosts identified in 215 of 848 questing nymphs; 23 mixed blood meals were noted. However, the list of hosts targeted by our primer sets was extended, improving the potential of the method. Host identification to species or genus level was possible for 137 and 102 blood meals, respectively. The most common hosts were Rodentia 28.9% and, unexpectedly, Carnivora 28.4%, with domestic dogs accounting for 21.3% of all larval blood meals. Overall, Cetartiodactyla species fed 17.2% of larvae. Passeriformes 14.6% fed a significantly higher proportion of larvae in forest patches 22.3% than in extensive forest 9.6%, while Soricomorpha 10.9% were more important hosts in extensive forest 15.2% than in forest patches 4.3%.

ConclusionsThe HRMA protocol for blood meal analysis is a valuable tool in the study of feeding ecology of sheep ticks, especially with the cost- and time- reductions introduced here. To our knowledge, we show for the first time that domestic dogs are important larval hosts in the Alps, which may have possible implications for tick-borne disease cycles in urbanized areas.

KeywordsIxodes ricinus Feeding ecology Nymphs Tick-borne disease Blood meal analysis Vertebrate hosts Canis lupus familiaris AbbreviationsDNADeoxyribonucleic acid

EXTFExtensive forest

HRMAHigh resolution melting analysis

mtDNAMitochondrial DNA

PATFForest patches surrounding human settlements

PCRPolymerase chain reaction

RFLPRestriction length fragment polymorhisms

RLBHReverse line blot hybridization

TmMelting temperature

TBDTick-borne disease

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-s13071-016-1901-y contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Margherita Collini - Francesca Albonico - Roberto Rosà - Valentina Tagliapietra - Daniele Arnoldi - Lorenza Conterno - Chia


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