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TDK conference 2013

Survey of tick habitats and investigation of the habitat-related occurrence of tick-borne pathogens in Budapest
Halász Edina - year 5
SzIU, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Department of Parasitology and Zoology
Supervisor: Hornok Sándor DVM


Research on the regional occurrence of ticks has been conducted for more, than half a century at the Department of Parasitology and Zoology. These studies initially concerned to collect faunistic data, and to survey habitat and host range of ixodid species. Such researches nowadays aim at evaluating tick-borne pathogens. Results published by Hungarian authors during the past few years revealed that species distribution and activity of ticks may depend on their biotopes. While most of similar studies have been conducted in natural (rural) habitats of these ectoparasites, only few or partial data are available from urban (city) environments. Therefore we initiated a broad scale tick collection in Budapest. Here in Western European comparison (where most of relevant studies were undertaken) the occurrence of ticks is expected in a broader range of habitats.

We collected questing ticks during the spring tick season (between March and June) from the vegetation in 30 places of Budapest (belonging to 14 districts) in three types of urban biotopes: neglected parts of cemeteries, parks and forests. These were not only different in their flora, but also in the availability of potential tick hosts. Certain places were sampled at monthly intervals. Altogether more, than 2400 ticks could be collected, belonging to four species. On sixteen places only Ixodes ricinus was found; on two places only Dermacentor reticulatus; on four places both of these and on one place these together with D. marginatus; further on Haemaphysalis concinna with I. ricinus or also with D. reticulatus on four and two places, respectively. No Dermacentor spp. were collected in cemeteries.

The number of collectable ticks per transect was the highest in neglected parts of cemeteries. We observed, that I. ricinus may show high activity earlier (in April) in habitats closer to the city center and of smaller size (compared to others with peak activity in May). Following DNA extraction we also performed molecular analysis of 80 randomly selected I. ricinus specimens from each of the three types of biotopes. The prevalence of Anaplasma phagocytophilum turned out to be significantly lower in ticks of cemeteries, than those collected in parks and forests.

In conclusion, since urban biotopes of ticks differ significantly with respect to vegetation type (i.e. micro-climatically), most probably in temperatures, and especially according to the presence of tick hosts and reservoirs of tick-borne pathogens, this may influence not only the spatio-temporal distribution of tick species, but also their abundance and the prevalence of tick-borne agents.

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