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  • Laaksonen, Maija; Sajanti, Eeva; Sormunen, Jani J.; Penttinen, Ritva; Hanninen, Jari; Ruohomaki, Kai; Saaksjarvi, Ilari; Vesterinen, Eero J.; Vuorinen, Ilppo; Hytonen, Jukka; Klemola, Tero (2017)
    A national crowdsourcing-based tick collection campaign was organized in 2015 with the objective of producing novel data on tick distribution and tick-borne pathogens in Finland. Nearly 20 000 Ixodes ticks were collected. The collected material revealed the nationwide distribution of I. persulcatus for the first time and a shift northwards in the distribution of I. ricinus in Finland. A subset of 2038 tick samples containing both species was screened for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (the prevalence was 14.2% for I. ricinus and 19.8% for I. persulcatus), B. miyamotoi (0.2% and 0.4%, respectively) and tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV; 0.2% and 3.0%, respectively). We also report new risk areas for TBEV in Finland and, for the first time, the presence of B. miyamotoi in ticks from mainland Finland. Most importantly, our study demonstrates the overwhelming power of citizen science in accomplishing a collection effort that would have been impossible with the scientific community alone.
  • Jaenson, Thomas G. T.; Varv, Kairi; Frojdman, Isabella; Jääskeläinen, Anu; Rundgren, Kaj; Versteirt, Veerle; Estrada-Pena, Agustin; Medlock, Jolyon M.; Golovljova, Irina (2016)
    Background: The tick species Ixodes ricinus and I. persulcatus are of exceptional medical importance in the western and eastern parts, respectively, of the Palaearctic region. In Russia and Finland the range of I. persulcatus has recently increased. In Finland the first records of I. persulcatus are from 2004. The apparent expansion of its range in Finland prompted us to investigate if I. persulcatus also occurs in Sweden. Methods: Dog owners and hunters in the coastal areas of northern Sweden provided information about localities where ticks could be present. In May-August 2015 we used the cloth-dragging method in 36 localities potentially harbouring ticks in the Bothnian Bay area, province Norrbotten (NB) of northern Sweden. Further to the south in the provinces Vasterbotten (VB) and Uppland (UP) eight localities were similarly investigated. Results: Ixodes persulcatus was detected in 9 of 36 field localities in the Bothnian Bay area. Nymphs, adult males and adult females (n = 46 ticks) of I. persulcatus were present mainly in Alnus incana - Sorbus aucuparia - Picea abies - Pinus sylvestris vegetation communities on islands in the Bothnian Bay. Some of these I. persulcatus populations seem to be the most northerly populations so far recorded of this species. Dog owners asserted that their dogs became tick-infested on these islands for the first time 7-8 years ago. Moose (Alces alces), hares (Lepus timidus), domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and ground-feeding birds are the most likely carriers dispersing I. persulcatus in this area. All ticks (n = 124) from the more southern provinces of VB and UP were identified as I. ricinus. Conclusions: The geographical range of the taiga tick has recently expanded into northern Sweden. Increased information about prophylactic, anti-tick measures should be directed to people living in or visiting the coastal areas and islands of the Baltic Bay.
  • Uusitalo, Ruut; Siljander, Mika; Linden, Andreas; Sormunen, Jani J.; Aalto, Juha; Hendrickx, Guy; Kallio, Eva; Vajda, Andrea; Gregow, Hilppa; Henttonen, Heikki; Marsboom, Cedric; Korhonen, Essi M.; Sironen, Tarja; Pellikka, Petri; Vapalahti, Olli (2022)
    Background Ticks are responsible for transmitting several notable pathogens worldwide. Finland lies in a zone where two human-biting tick species co-occur: Ixodesricinus and Ixodespersulcatus. Tick densities have increased in boreal regions worldwide during past decades, and tick-borne pathogens have been identified as one of the major threats to public health in the face of climate change. Methods We used species distribution modelling techniques to predict the distributions of I.ricinus and I.persulcatus, using aggregated historical data from 2014 to 2020 and new tick occurrence data from 2021. By aiming to fill the gaps in tick occurrence data, we created a new sampling strategy across Finland. We also screened for tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) and Borrelia from the newly collected ticks. Climate, land use and vegetation data, and population densities of the tick hosts were used in various combinations on four data sets to estimate tick species' distributions across mainland Finland with a 1-km resolution. Results In the 2021 survey, 89 new locations were sampled of which 25 new presences and 63 absences were found for I.ricinus and one new presence and 88 absences for I.persulcatus. A total of 502 ticks were collected and analysed; no ticks were positive for TBEV, while 56 (47%) of the 120 pools, including adult, nymph, and larva pools, were positive for Borrelia (minimum infection rate 11.2%, respectively). Our prediction results demonstrate that two combined predictor data sets based on ensemble mean models yielded the highest predictive accuracy for both I.ricinus (AUC = 0.91, 0.94) and I.persulcatus (AUC = 0.93, 0.96). The suitable habitats for I.ricinus were determined by higher relative humidity, air temperature, precipitation sum, and middle-infrared reflectance levels and higher densities of white-tailed deer, European hare, and red fox. For I.persulcatus, locations with greater precipitation and air temperature and higher white-tailed deer, roe deer, and mountain hare densities were associated with higher occurrence probabilities. Suitable habitats for I.ricinus ranged from southern Finland up to Central Ostrobothnia and North Karelia, excluding areas in Ostrobothnia and Pirkanmaa. For I.persulcatus, suitable areas were located along the western coast from Ostrobothnia to southern Lapland, in North Karelia, North Savo, Kainuu, and areas in Pirkanmaa and Paijat-Hame. Conclusions This is the first study conducted in Finland that estimates potential tick species distributions using environmental and host data. Our results can be utilized in vector control strategies, as supporting material in recommendations issued by public health authorities, and as predictor data for modelling the risk for tick-borne diseases.
  • Cayol, Claire; Jääskeläinen, Anu; Koskela, Esa; Kyröläinen, Sami; Mappes, Tapio; Siukkola, Anja; Kallio, Eva R. (2018)
    The generalist tick Ixodes ricinus is the most important vector for tick-borne pathogens (TBP), including Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, in Europe. However, the involvement of other sympatric Ixodes ticks, such as the specialist vole tick I. trianguliceps, in the enzootic circulations of TBP remains unclear. We studied the distribution of I. ricinus and I. trianguliceps in Central Finland and estimated the TBP infection likelihood in the most common rodent host in relation with the abundance of the two tick species. Ixodes trianguliceps was encountered in all 16 study sites whereas I. ricinus was frequently observed only at a quarter of the study sites. The abundance of I. ricinus was positively associated with open water coverage and human population density around the study sites. Borrelia burgdorferi s. l.-infected rodents were found only in sites where I. ricinus was abundant, whereas the occurrence of other TBP was independent of I. ricinus presence. These results suggest that I. trianguliceps is not sufficient, at least alone, in maintaining the circulation of B. burgdorferi s. l. in wild hosts. In addition, anthropogenic factors might affect the distribution of I. ricinus ticks and, hence, their pathogens, thus shaping the landscape of tick-borne disease risk for humans.
  • Sormunen, Jani Jukka; Klemola, Tero; Hänninen, Jari; Mäkelä, Satu; Vuorinen, Ilppo; Penttinen, Ritva; Sääksjärvi, Ilari Eerikki; Vesterinen, Eero Juhani (2018)
    Ticks (Acari: Ixodoidea) are among the most common vectors of zoonotic pathogens worldwide. While research on tick-borne pathogens is abundant, few studies have thoroughly investigated small-scale spatial differences in their occurrence. Here, we used long-term cloth-dragging data of Ixodes ricinus and its associated, known and putative pathogens (Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., Borrelia miyamotoi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Rickettsia spp., Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Bartonella spp., Babesia spp., and tick-borne encephalitis virus, TBEV) from a small, well-studied island in southwestern Finland to analyze potential temporal and spatial differences in pathogen prevalence and diversity between and within different biotopes. We found robust evidence indicating significant dissimilarities in B. burgdorferi s.l., A. phagocytophilum, Rickettsia, and Ca. N. mikurensis prevalence, even between proximal study areas on the island. Moreover, during the 6 years of the ongoing study, we witnessed the possible emergence of TBEV and Ca. N. mikurensis on the island. Finally, the stable occurrence of a protozoan pathogen that has not been previously reported in Finland, Babesia venatorum, was observed on the island. Our study underlines the importance of detailed, long-term tick surveys for public health. We propose that by more precisely identifying different environmental factors associated with the emergence and upkeep of enzootic pathogen populations through rigorous longitudinal surveys, we may be able to create more accurate models for both current and future pathogen distributions.