Range Expansion of Ixodes scapularis and Borrelia burgdorferi in Ontario, Canada, from 2017 to 2019

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2022 Jul;22(7):361-369. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2022.0015. Epub 2022 Jun 21.


Range expansion of the vector tick species, Ixodes scapularis, has been detected in Ontario over the last two decades. This has led to elevated risk of exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Previous research using passive surveillance data suggests that I. scapularis populations establish before the establishment of B. burgdorferi transmission cycles, with a delay of ∼5 years. The objectives of this research were to examine spatial and temporal patterns of I. scapularis and its pathogens from 2017 to 2019 in southwestern, eastern, and central Ontario, and to explore patterns of B. burgdorferi invasion. Over the 3-year study period, drag sampling was conducted at 48 sites across Ontario. I. scapularis ticks were tested for B. burgdorferi, Borrelia miyamotoi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and Babesia species, including Babesia microti and Babesia odocoilei, and Powassan virus. I. scapularis was detected at 30 sites overall, 22 of which had no history of previous tick detection. B. burgdorferi was detected at nine sites, eight of which tested positive for the first time during this study and five of which had B. burgdorferi detected concurrently with initial tick detection. Tick and pathogen hotspots were identified in eastern Ontario in 2017 and 2018, respectively. These findings provide additional evidence on the range expansion and population establishment of I. scapularis in Ontario and help generate hypotheses on the invasion of B. burgdorferi in Ontario. Ongoing public health surveillance is critical to monitor changes in I. scapularis and its pathogens in Ontario.

Keywords: Borrelia burgdorferi; Ixodes scapularis; Lyme disease; invasion mechanism; range expansion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaplasma phagocytophilum / classification
  • Anaplasma phagocytophilum / isolation & purification
  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors / microbiology
  • Arachnid Vectors / physiology*
  • Babesia / classification
  • Babesia / isolation & purification
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / physiology*
  • Encephalitis Viruses, Tick-Borne / isolation & purification
  • Ixodes / microbiology
  • Ixodes / physiology*
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology*
  • Lyme Disease / transmission
  • Ontario / epidemiology