Borrelia persica infection in wild carnivores in Israel: molecular characterization and new potential reservoirs

Dor Shwartz, Yaarit Nachum-Biala, Stephanie Oren, Kobi Aharoni, Nir Edery, Lior Moss, Roni King, Roi Lapid, Reinhard K. Straubinger, Gad Baneth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Borrelia persica causes tick-borne relapsing fever in Israel, the eastern Mediterranean basin, and Asia. Relapsing fever is associated with severe illness and potentially death in humans and animals. Since B. persica infection has rarely been described in wild animals, the aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of infection with B. persica in wild carnivores in Israel. Methods: Spleen and blood clot samples from wild carnivores, which underwent necropsy, were tested for the presence of Borrelia DNA by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR products were sequenced, and the spirochete loads were quantified using a specific quantitative PCR (qPCR). Results: A total of 140 samples from 74 wild carnivores were analyzed for the presence of Borrelia DNA. Six out of the 74 (8.1%) animals were found positive for B. persica by PCR and sequencing of the flagellin B gene, of which 4/74 (5.4%) were also positive by PCR for the glycerophosphodiester phosphodiesterase (glpQ) gene. Positive samples were obtained from three European badgers, and one striped hyena, golden jackal, and red fox each. All B. persica-positive animals were young males (P < 0.0001). Quantifiable results were obtained from 3/5 spleen and 4/5 blood samples. The spirochete loads in the blood were significantly higher than those found in the spleen (P = 0.034). Conclusions: The prevalence of B. persica infection found in wild carnivores brought for necropsy was unexpectedly high, suggesting that this infection is widespread in some wild animal species in Israel. This is the first report of B. persica infection in the European badger and striped hyena. These carnivores have a wide geographical range of activity, and the results of this survey raise the possibility that they may serve as reservoir hosts for B. persica. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageAmerican English
Article number337
JournalParasites and Vectors
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • Borrelia persica
  • Borreliosis
  • European badger
  • Relapsing fever
  • Striped hyena
  • Wildlife carnivores

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