University of Oulu

Norte, AC, Margos, G, Becker, NS, et al. Host dispersal shapes the population structure of a tick‐borne bacterial pathogen. Mol Ecol. 2020; 29: 485– 501.

Host dispersal shapes the population structure of a tick‐borne bacterial pathogen

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Author: Norte, Ana Cláudia1,2; Margos, Gabriele3; Becker, Noémie S.4;
Organizations: 1MARE – Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
2Center for Vector and Infectious Diseases Research, National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal
3German National Reference Centre for Borrelia (NRZ), Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority (LGL), Oberschleissheim, Germany
4Division of Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Biology, LMU Munich, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany
5Department of Zoology, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
6Hellenic Bird Ringing Center, Athens, Greece
7Instituto Cavanilles de Biodiversidad y Biología Evolutiva (ICBiBE), Universidad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain
8Department of Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
9School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
10Ócsa Bird Ringing Station, Ócsa, Hungary
11epartment of Anatomy, Cell and Developmental Biology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
12Laboratory of Parasitology and Parasitic Diseases, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece
13Behavioural Ecology, Department of Biology, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany
14CNRS – Department of Biometry and Evolutionary Biology (LBBE) – University Lyon 1, University of Lyon, Villeurbanne, France
15Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warszawa, Poland
16Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
17Department of Parasitology and Zoology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Budapest, Hungary
18Evolutionary Physiology Laboratory, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany
19Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA
20Interuniversity Institute for Biostatistics and Statistical Bioinformatics, Hasselt University, Diepenbeek, Belgium
21Forest Research Institute, Hellenic Agricultural Organization “DEMETER”, Thesaloniki, Greece
22Hungarian Biodiversity Research Society, Budapest, Hungary
23Czech Union for Nature Conservation, Břeclav, Czech Republic
24Department of Biology and Wildlife Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology, University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno, Brno, Czech Republic
25Department of Zoology, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
26Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
27Department of Biology, Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab, University of Lund, Lund, Sweden
28Department of Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
29Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), Madrid, Spain
30Department of Life Sciences, CFE – Centre for Functional Ecology – Science for People & the Planet, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
31CIBIO‐InBIO, Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
32National Institute of Public Health and Environment (RIVM), Laboratory for Zoonoses and Environmental Microbiology, Bilthoven, The Netherlands
33Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
34Behavioural Ecology Group, Department of Systematic Zoology and Ecology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
35Slovenian Museum of Natural History, Ljubljana, Slovenia
36Museum of the Moravian Wallachia Region, Vsetín, Czech Republic
37Department of Animal Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO‐KNAW), Wageningen, The Netherlands
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.9 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-12-17


Birds are hosts for several zoonotic pathogens. Because of their high mobility, especially of longdistance migrants, birds can disperse these pathogens, affecting their distribution and phylogeography. We focused on Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, which includes the causative agents of Lyme borreliosis, as an example for tick‐borne pathogens, to address the role of birds as propagation hosts of zoonotic agents at a large geographical scale. We collected ticks from passerine birds in 11 European countries. B. burgdorferi s.l. prevalence in Ixodes spp. was 37% and increased with latitude. The fieldfare Turdus pilaris and the blackbird T. merula carried ticks with the highest Borrelia prevalence (92 and 58%, respectively), whereas robin Erithacus rubecula ticks were the least infected (3.8%). Borrelia garinii was the most prevalent genospecies (61%), followed by B. valaisiana (24%), B. afzelii (9%), B. turdi (5%) and B. lusitaniae (0.5%). A novel Borrelia genospecies “Candidatus Borrelia aligera” was also detected. Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) analysis of B. garinii isolates together with the global collection of B. garinii genotypes obtained from the Borrelia MLST public database revealed that: (a) there was little overlap among genotypes from different continents, (b) there was no geographical structuring within Europe, and (c) there was no evident association pattern detectable among B. garinii genotypes from ticks feeding on birds, questing ticks or human isolates. These findings strengthen the hypothesis that the population structure and evolutionary biology of tick‐borne pathogens are shaped by their host associations and the movement patterns of these hosts.

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Series: Molecular ecology
ISSN: 0962-1083
ISSN-E: 1365-294X
ISSN-L: 0962-1083
Volume: 29
Issue: 3
Pages: 485 - 501
DOI: 10.1111/mec.15336
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study received financial support from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia by the strategic program of MARE (MARE ‐ UID/MAR/04292/2013) and the fellowship to Ana Cláudia Norte (SFRH/BPD/108197/2015), and the Portuguese National Institute of Health. Raivo Mänd, Tomi Trilar, Tapio Eeva, Tomas Grim and Dieter Heylen were supported by the Estonian Research Council (research grant # IUT34‐8), the Slovenian Research Agency ‐programme “Communities, relations and communications in the ecosystems” (No. P1‐0255), the Academy of Finland (project 265859), the Internal Grant Agency of Palacky University (PrF_2014_018, PrF_2015_018, PrF_2013_018) and the ​Marie Sklodowska‐Curie Actions (EU‐Horizon 2020, Individual Global Fellowship, project no 799609), respectively. All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed in this study.
Copyright information: © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Norte, AC, Margos, G, Becker, NS, et al. Host dispersal shapes the population structure of a tick‐borne bacterial pathogen. Mol Ecol. 2020; 29: 485– 501, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.