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Krawczyk et al (2015) Presence of zoonotic agents in engorged ticks and hedgehog faeces in urban areas

Title: Presence of Zoonotic agents in engorged ticks and hedgehog faeces from Erinaceus europaeus in (sub) urban areas, Parasites and Vectors 8:210, 2015

Authors: A. Krawczyk, A. van Leeuwen, W. Jacobs-Reitsma, L. Wijnands, E. Bouw, S. Jahfari, A. van Hoek, J. van der Giessen, J. Roelfsema, M. Kroes, J.Kleve, Y. Dullemont, H. Sprong, A. de Bruin

Country: Netherlands

Background to study

An investigation into the presence of tick-borne pathogens in ticks feeding on European hedgehog and of enteric pathogens and protozoan parasites in hedgehog faeces from samples collected across five different provinces of the Netherlands.


  • Ixodes ticks (Ixodes hexagonus and I. ricinus) were collected from European hedgehogs, rehabilitating in a hedgehog shelter between 2010 and 2012. Samples included ticks of both sexes and all developmental stages to identify the role of European hedgehogs in maintaining the bacterium in an enzootic cycle.
  • Borrelia spp including burgdorferi s.l. and B. miymotoi and of Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Candidatus N. mikurensis were identified by amplifying species specific genes within DNA from ticks.
  • Hedgehog faeces were collected from 90 hedgehogs rehabilitating in a hedgehog shelter in 2013.
  • Faecal material was examined for the presence of Campylobacter by standard microbiological methods and for Salmonella according to Annex D of ISO 6579 and ISO/TS 13136. If confirmed serotyping was subsequently performed.
  • Protozoan parasites (Giardia duodenalis, Crypotsporidium parvum and C. hominis) were detected by isolating species specific DNA extracted from hedgehog faeces.

Key results

  • 14% and 28% of hexagonus and I. ricinus ticks respectively were identified to be infected with B. burgdorferi s.l. which can cause Lymes disease in humans. Of these B. afzelii was most frequently detected (76%) followed by B. spielman (14%) and B. garinii and B. burgdorferi s.s. were detected in 6% and 4% respectively.
  • 27% and 24% of hexagonus and I. ricinus ticks respectively were identified to be infected with A. phagocytophilum which causes granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans suggesting that hedgehogs are a reservoir host for this pathogen.
  • miyamotoi, a spirochete belonging to the relapsing fever group, was not identified in I. hexagonus, suggesting that this tick species is not a competent vector or that hedgehogs are not a competent host.
  • Candidatus N. mikurensis was not detected in either tick species.
  • Faecal analyses from 90 samples revealed that 10% of samples contained Salmonella and the serotype Enteritidis, which is a common serotype pathogenic to humans.
  • 1 faecal sample contained Campylobacter jejuni which is one of the main causes of human gastroenteritis.
  • 11% of faecal samples were positive for Giardia (flagellated protozoan parasites), in particular the duodenalis assemblage which is responsible for human infections worldwide.
  • A protozoan parasite species, Cryptosporidium, was detected in 9% of faecal samples, in particular two genospecies parvumn and C. hominis were observed which cause cryptosporidiosis in humans.
  • Viable ESC-resistant coli were detected in 71% of the 90 hedgehog faeces analysed and AmpC producing E.coli and ESBL-producing E.coli were only found in samples collected in April (86% of 58 samples) and October (41% of 32 samples) respectively.

Key messages to landowners and managers derived from these results

  • Appropriate risk assessments and control measures should be enforced when working with captive and/or rehabilitating hedgehogs and when conducting ecological surveys, to prevent infection when handling individuals or their faecal matter and secondary infection through tick bites.
  • Awareness should be raised to the risk of tick bites and related pathogens in urban areas, where hedgehogs, amongst other species, may act as a reservoir host to Borrelia

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