Differential role of passerine birds in distribution of Borrelia spirochetes, based on data from ticks collected from birds during the postbreeding migration period in Central Europe

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Feb;75(3):596-602. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01674-08. Epub 2008 Dec 5.


Borrelia spirochetes in bird-feeding ticks were studied in the Czech Republic. During the postbreeding period (July to September 2005), 1,080 passerine birds infested by 2,240 Ixodes ricinus subadult ticks were examined. Borrelia garinii was detected in 22.2% of the ticks, Borrelia valaisiana was detected in 12.8% of the ticks, Borrelia afzelii was detected in 1.6% of the ticks, and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto was detected in 0.3% of the ticks. After analysis of infections in which the blood meal volume and the stage of the ticks were considered, we concluded that Eurasian blackbirds (Turdus merula), song thrushes (Turdus philomelos), and great tits (Parus major) are capable of transmitting B. garinii; that juvenile blackbirds and song thrushes are prominent reservoirs for B. garinii spirochetes; that some other passerine birds investigated play minor roles in transmitting B. garinii; and that the presence B. afzelii in ticks results from infection in a former stage. Thus, while B. garinii transmission is associated with only a few passerine bird species, these birds have the potential to distribute millions of Lyme disease spirochetes between urban areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bird Diseases / microbiology*
  • Borrelia / classification*
  • Borrelia / isolation & purification*
  • Czech Republic
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / chemistry
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer / chemistry
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer / genetics
  • Disease Reservoirs / microbiology*
  • Ixodes / microbiology*
  • Lyme Disease / transmission
  • Lyme Disease / veterinary*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Passeriformes / microbiology*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer

Associated data

  • GENBANK/EU401776
  • GENBANK/EU401777
  • GENBANK/EU401778
  • GENBANK/EU401779
  • GENBANK/EU401780
  • GENBANK/EU401781
  • GENBANK/EU401782
  • GENBANK/EU401783
  • GENBANK/EU401784