Prevalence of ticks and tick-borne pathogens: Babesia and Borrelia species in ticks infesting cats of Great Britain

Vet Parasitol. 2017 Sep 15;244:129-135. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2017.07.033. Epub 2017 Aug 1.


In a study of tick and tick-borne pathogen prevalence, between May and October 2016, 278 veterinary practices in Great Britain examined 1855 cats. Six-hundred and one cats were found to have attached ticks. The most frequently recorded tick species was Ixodes ricinus (57.1%), followed by Ixodes hexagonus (41.4%) and Ixodes trianguliceps (1.5%). Male cats, 4-6 years of age living in rural areas were most likely to be carrying a tick; hair length and tick treatment history had no significant association with attachment. For cats that were parasitized by ticks in large urban areas, I. hexagonus was the most frequent species recorded. Molecular analysis was possible for 541 individual tick samples, others were too damaged for analysis; Babesia spp., and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato were identified in 1.1% (n=6) and 1.8% (n=10) of these, respectively. Babesia spp. included Babesia vulpes sp. nov./Babesia microti-like (n=4) in I. hexagonus and Babesia venatorum (n=2) in I. ricinus. Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. species included Borrelia garinii (n=6) and Borrelia afzelii (n=4). The majority of B. burgorferi s.l. cases were found in I. ricinus, with B. afzelii in one I. hexagonus nymph. No Borrelia or Babesia spp. were present in I. trianguliceps. To determine a true prevalence for ticks on cats, practices that only submitted questionnaires from cats with ticks and practices that submitted fewer than 5 returns per week were removed; amongst those considered to have adhered strictly to the collection protocol, feline tick prevalence amongst cats that had access to the outdoors was 6.6%. These results show that ticks can be found on cats throughout Great Britain, which harbour a range of species of Babesia and B. burgdorferi s.l. and that cats, particularly in green spaces within urban areas, may form an important host for I. hexagonus, a known vector of pathogens.

Keywords: Cat; Distribution; Ixodidae; Survey; Zoonosis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Babesia / genetics
  • Babesia / isolation & purification*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / genetics
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / isolation & purification*
  • Cat Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cat Diseases / parasitology
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ixodidae / classification*
  • Ixodidae / microbiology
  • Ixodidae / parasitology
  • Male
  • Nymph
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / veterinary
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tick Infestations / epidemiology
  • Tick Infestations / parasitology
  • Tick Infestations / veterinary*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Zoonoses