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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, RJ 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.

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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 gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) (n � 679), an invasive species in the United Kingdom, as B. burgdorferi sensu lato hosts. We found that gray squirrels were frequently infested with Ixodes ricinus, the main vector of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in the United Kingdom, and 11.9% were infected with B. burgdorferi sensu lato. All four genospecies that occur in the United Kingdom were detected in gray squirrels, and unexpectedly, the bird-associated genospecies Borrelia garinii was most common. The second most frequent infection was with Borrelia afzelii. Genotyping of B. garinii and B. afzelii produced no evidence for strains associated with gray squirrels. Generalized linear mixed models (GLMM) identified tick infestation and date of capture as significant factors associated with B. burgdorferi sensu lato infection in gray squirrels, with infection elevated in early summer in squirrels infested with ticks. Invasive gray squirrels appear to become infected with locally circulating strains of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, and further studies are required to determine their role in community disease dynamics. Our findings highlight the fact that the role of introduced host species in B. burgdorferi sensu lato epidemiology can be highly variable and thus difficult to predict.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences > Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Publisher: American Society for Microbiology
ISSN: 0099-2240
Related URLs:
Funders: Biotechnology and Biosciences Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Depositing User: RJ Birtles
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2016 14:37
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2016 14:37
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/38218

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