Molecular Identification of Bloodmeal Source in Ixodes ricinus Ticks Using 12S rDNA As a Genetic Marker

Humair, Pierre-François ; Douet, Véronique ; Cadenas, Francisca Morán ; Schouls, Leo M. ; Pol, Ingrid Van De ; Gern, Lise

In: Journal of Medical Entomology, 2007, vol. 44, no. 5, p. 869-880

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    We developed an efficient molecular method for the identification of the bloodmeal sources in the tick Ixodes ricinus (L.), the European vector of the agents of Lyme borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis. A ≈145-bp orthologous fragment of the vertebrate mitochondrial 12S rDNA was used as a molecular marker to discriminate host vertebrate species. The method consists of a single run polymerase chain reaction amplification of the 12S rDNA molecular marker by using nondegenerate primers followed by a reverse line blot hybridization assay by using specific oligonucleotide probes. The palette of probes allowed us to distinguish major groups of host vertebrates (e.g., mammals, small rodents, artiodactyls, birds, lizards) and to identify the bloodmeal sources at the genus or species level. External primers were designed and used to sequence the 12S rDNA molecular marker of a broad range of known or potential host vertebrate species (n = 60), including mammal (n = 28), bird (n = 31), and reptile (n = 1) species. The use of this technique coupled with known methods for identification of tick-borne pathogens (e.g., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato) allowed us to determine the source of infective bloodmeal and to identify reservoir species. The present method was successfully used to identify the source of bloodmeals in all feeding I. ricinus ticks and in half of questing field-collected I. ricinus ticks. Moreover, the bloodmeal source was identified in 65% of ticks infected with B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Further development of this technique may be envisaged for the detection of other vector-borne pathogens and their reservoir hosts