Background: Borrelia miyamotoi is a spirochete transmitted by several ixodid tick species. It causes a relapsing fever in humans and is currently considered as an emerging pathogen. In Europe, B. miyamotoi seems to occur at low prevalence in Ixodes ricinus ticks but has a wide distribution. Here we report the first detection of B. miyamotoi in Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in two independent studies conducted in 2016 in the north-eastern and north-western Alps, Italy.
Results: Three out of 405 nymphs (0.74%) tested positive for Borrelia miyamotoi. In particular, B. miyamotoi was found in 2/365 nymphs in the western and in 1/40 nymphs in the eastern alpine area. These are the first findings of B. miyamotoi in Italy.
Conclusions: Exposure to B. miyamotoi and risk of human infection may occur through tick bites in northern Italy. Relapsing fever caused by Borrelia miyamotoi has not yet been reported in Italy, but misdiagnoses with tick-borne encephalitis, human granulocytic anaplasmosis or other relapsing fever can occur. Our findings suggest that B. miyamotoi should be considered in the differential diagnosis of febrile patients originating from Lyme borreliosis endemic regions. The distribution of this pathogen and its relevance to public health need further investigation.
Keywords: Borrelia miyamotoi; Ixodes ricinus; Northern Italy; Zoonosis.