Detection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in lizards and their ticks from Hungary.

Research paper by Gábor G Földvári, Krisztina K Rigó, Viktória V Majláthová, Igor I Majláth, Róbert R Farkas, Branislav B Pet'ko

Indexed on: 06 Jun '09Published on: 06 Jun '09Published in: Vector borne and zoonotic diseases (Larchmont, N.Y.)


To investigate the involvement of lizard species in the natural cycle of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) in Hungary, a total of 186 reptiles belonging to three species--126 green lizards (Lacerta viridis), 40 Balkan wall lizards (Podarcis taurica), and 20 sand lizards (Lacerta agilis)--were captured in 2007 and 2008. All ticks removed from the lizards were Ixodes ricinus, either larvae (324/472; 68.6%) or nymphs (148/472; 31.4%). More than half (66/126; 52.4%) of L. viridis individuals were infested, and the prevalence of tick infestation on both the other two species was 35% each. All 472 I. ricinus ticks and tissue samples collected from 134 collar scales and 62 toe clips of lizards were further analyzed for the presence of B. burgdorferi s.l. with polymerase chain reaction. The amplification of B. burgdorferi s.l. DNA was successful in 8% (n = 92) of L. viridis, 9% (n = 32) of P. taurica, and 10% (n = 10) of L. agilis tissue samples. Restriction fragment length polymorphism genotyping identified the species Borrelia lusitaniae in all tested lizard samples. Prevalence of B. burgdorferi s.l. in ticks collected from L. viridis, P. taurica, and L. agilis was 8%, 2%, and 0%, respectively. Most of the infected ticks carried B. lusitaniae (74% of genotyped positives); however, Borrelia afzelii (5%) and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (21%) were detected in ticks removed from green lizards and Balkan wall lizards, respectively. We conclude that lizards, particularly L. viridis, can be important hosts for I. ricinus larvae and nymphs; thus, they can be regarded as reservoirs of these important pathogen vectors. The role of green lizards has been confirmed, and the implication of Balkan wall lizards is suggested in the natural cycle of B. lusitaniae at our study site.