Phenology of Ixodes ricinus and Infection with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato Along a North- and South-Facing Altitudinal Gradient on Chaumont Mountain, Switzerland

Cadenas, Francisca Morán ; Rais, Olivier ; Jouda, Fatima ; Douet, Véronique ; Humair, Pierre-françois ; Moret, Jacqueline ; Gern, Lise

In: Journal of Medical Entomology, 2007, vol. 44, no. 4, p. 683-693

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    Questing Ixodes ricinus L. ticks were collected monthly from 2003 to 2005 on the north- and south-facing slopes of Chaumont Mountain in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, at altitudes varying from 620 to 1,070 m. On the south-facing slope, questing tick density was higher than on the north-facing slope, and it decreased with altitude. Density tended to increase with altitude on the north-facing slope. Saturation deficit values higher than 10 mmHg and lasting for >2 mo were often recorded on the south-facing slope, explaining seasonal patterns of questing tick activity. The overall prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was 22.4%, and prevalence differed according to exposure and among years. No difference was noticed between nymphs and adults. Four Borrelia species were identified. Mixed infections were detected in 52 ticks, B. garinii and B. valaisiana (n = 21) and B. afzelii and B. burgdorferi s.s. (n = 20) were the most frequent associations observed. The density of infected ticks varied from 3.6 to 78.7 infected nymphs per 100 m2 and from 0.6 to 16.9 infected adults per 100 m2, both slopes combined. The study on the south-facing slope was a follow-up of a previous study carried out at the same location during 1999-2001. Comparison of climatic data between the two periods showed a marked increase in saturation deficit. Substantial differences in density and phenology of ticks also were observed. At high elevations, ticks were significantly more abundant during the current study. This can be explained by rising temperatures recorded during summer at altitude, reaching values similar to those registered in the first study beneath. At the lowest altitude, adults were significantly less abundant, probably due to long-lasting high saturation deficits that impaired nymphal survival. The density of Borrelia-infected ticks was higher than in the previous study