Transplacental transmission of tick-borne Babesia microti in its natural host Peromyscus leucopus
PARASITES & VECTORS
Authors: Tufts, Danielle M.; Diuk-Wasser, Maria A.
Background: Babesia microti is an emerging tick-borne pathogen and the causative agent of human babesiosis. Mathematical modeling of the reproductive rate of B. microti indicates that it cannot persist in nature by horizontal tick-host transmission alone. We hypothesized that transplacental transmission in the reservoir population contributes to B. microti persistence and emergence in North American rodent populations. Methods: Peromyscus leucopus were collected from Connecticut and Block Island, Rhode Island and analyzed using a highly specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay for infection with B. microti. Results: In April, 100% (n = 103) of mice were infected with B. microti. Females exhibited significantly higher parasitemia than their offspring (P < 0.0001) and transplacental transmission was observed in 74.2% of embryos (n = 89). Transplacental transmission of B. microti is thus a viable and potentially important infectious pathway in naturally infected rodent species and should be considered in future theoretical and empirical studies. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this study is the first to report transplacental transmission of B. microti occurring in its natural reservoir host, P. leucopus, in the United States and the only study that provides a quantitative estimate of parasitemia. This vector-independent pathway could contribute to the increased geographic range of B. microti or increase its abundance in endemic areas.
High seroprevalence of Babesia antibodies among Borrelia burgdorferi-infected humans in Sweden
TICKS AND TICK-BORNE DISEASES
Authors: Svensson, Joel; Hunfeld, Klaus-Peter; Persson, Kristina E. M.
In northern Europe, tick-borne diseases such as Lyme borreliosis (LB) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) are well known. The actual incidence of Babesia infections, however, has remained elusive. In this study, the prevalence of antibodies against two Babesia spp. was investigated in a cohort of patients that were seropositive for Borrelia (B.) burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.). Data were compared to a control group of healthy individuals. Sera were collected from 283 individuals residing in the southernmost region of Sweden, Skane County. Almost one third of the sera were from patients with a confirmed seropositive reaction against B. burgdorferi s.l. All sera samples were assessed for IgG antibodies against Babesia (Ba.) microti and Ba. divergens by indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) assays. Seropositive IgG titers for at least one of the Babesia spp. was significantly more common (p < 0.05) in individuals seropositive for Borrelia (16.3%) compared to the healthy control group (2.5%). Our findings suggest that Babesia infections may indeed be quite common among individuals who have been exposed to tick bites. Furthermore, the results indicate that human babesiosis should be considered in patients that show relevant symptoms; particularly for splenectomized and other immunocompromised individuals. Finally, the data challenges current blood transfusion procedures and highlights the current lack of awareness of the parasite in northern Europe.