Borrelia burgdorferi infection prevalences in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) in urban and suburban Bonn, western Germany

Parasitol Res. 2005 Jan;95(1):5-12. doi: 10.1007/s00436-004-1240-3. Epub 2004 Nov 10.


From March to October 2003, a total of 2,518 host-seeking Ixodes ricinus ticks (1,944 nymphs, 264 females, 310 males) were collected by blanket dragging at 45 sites all over the city area of Bonn, western Germany, to be checked for Borrelia burgdorferi infection. The collection sites included 20 private gardens, nine public recreational parks, the boundaries of 14 sylvatic suburban areas and two footpaths between suburban farmed fields. Generally, numbers of specimens collected along sylvatic suburban areas and at urban sites with dense tree populations were significantly higher than at the other collection sites. Out of 1,394 specimens (865 nymphs, 241 females, 288 males) that were randomly chosen for Borrelia analysis by a simple PCR, 250 (17.9 %) were found to be infected with B. burgdorferi sensu lato. While the infection prevalences varied significantly between females (26.6%), males (12.5%) and nymphs (17.3%), there were no striking differences between sylvatic and unwooded sites. A total of 92.8% of the ticks Borrelia-positive by the simple PCR were also positive in a diagnostic nested PCR. Using genospecies-specific oligonucleotide probes, single Borrelia genospecies infections (91.4%) could be assigned to B. afzelii (39.5%), B. garinii (27.9%), B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (15.6%) and B. valaisiana (8.6%) by DNA hybridization. Various combinations of double infections were observed in 4.3% of the infected ticks. Another 4.3% of the Borrelia infections were untypeable. The B. burgdorferi genospecies distribution in the city area was shown to be variable from site to site and, even more, it was distinct from rural collection sites near Bonn. This is ascribed to a different spectrum of reservoir hosts. Taking into account the infection prevalences of host-seeking ticks in the forested surroundings of Bonn, our study demonstrates that the risk of acquiring Lyme disease after a tick bite in urban/suburban areas is comparably as high as in woodlands outside of the city.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors / microbiology*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / genetics
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Ecosystem
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Ixodes / microbiology*
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology
  • Nymph / microbiology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Urban Population


  • DNA, Bacterial