Pathogens and symbionts in ticks: prevalence of Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Ehrlichia sp.), Wolbachia sp., Rickettsia sp., and Babesia sp. in Southern Germany

Int J Med Microbiol. 2004 Apr;293 Suppl 37:86-92. doi: 10.1016/s1433-1128(04)80013-5.


Tick-transmitted diseases like tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme borreliosis have been well known in Germany for decades. Ongoing research now gives an additional focus to a broad range of other bacteria and parasites in ticks like Anaplasma phagocytophilum, former Ehrlichia sp., Rickettsia sp. and Babesia sp. Knowledge about the prevalence of these infectious agents in ticks is an important prerequisite for risk assessment of human diseases. Therefore nymphs and adult Ixodes ricinus ticks were collected and examined for Anaplasma phagocytophilum (n = 5424 ticks), Rickettsia sp. (n = 1187), and Babesia sp. (n = 3113). For the detection of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, DNA from the 16S rDNA gene was amplified by nested PCR and hybridized with a DIG-labeled oligonucleotide probe. The examination of Rickettsia sp. was performed by single PCR. A partial sequence of the citrate synthase gene was amplified. As a target for the detection of Babesia sp., DNA from the 18S rDNA gene was amplified, also by single PCR. All positive PCR products were sequenced to control specificity. Anaplasma phagocytophilum was detected by PCR in n = 103 (1.9%) out of 5,424 examined ticks from 11 investigation areas. However, not all positive PCR products hybridized using DIG-labeled oligonucleotide probe. Thus, the result of sequencing indicated that only 1.0% (n = 54) belonged to Anaplasma phagocytophilum and nearly half of these PCR products (0.9%) were identified as Wolbachia sp. Rickettsia sp. in Ixodes ricinus ticks from 3 areas were found in n = 105 (8.9%) out of 1,187 ticks examined (range from 13.3% to 5.6%). Sequencing showed Rickettsia helvetica exclusively. In about 2.6% of Rickettsia-positive ticks, double infection with Anaplasma phagocytophilum was found. Babesia sp. was detected in n= 31 (1.0%) out of 3,113 ticks examined, which originated from 4 different areas. By sequencing, n = 28 (90.0%) were identified as Babesia divergens. Three of all Babesia-positive ticks were identified as harboring Babesia microti. The detection of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Rickettsia sp. and Babesia sp. demonstrates their possible role as a source of human infection in Germany.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaplasma phagocytophilum / genetics
  • Anaplasma phagocytophilum / isolation & purification*
  • Animals
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase / chemistry
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Ixodes / microbiology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prevalence
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / chemistry
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / chemistry
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics
  • Rickettsia / genetics
  • Rickettsia / isolation & purification*
  • Tick Infestations / epidemiology
  • Wolbachia / genetics
  • Wolbachia / isolation & purification*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • Citrate (si)-Synthase