A 1-year study of the ecological cycle of Francisella tularensis was performed in an enzootic area during an inter-epizootic period. The study was based on multiple sampling of all major constituents of the disease cycle. Seroprevalence of tularemia in the European brown hare (Lepus europaeus) population was 5.1% (10/197) with low antibody titers (1/10 and 1/20), and F. tularensis ssp. holarctica was isolated from four hares. F. tularensis was not detected in the 38 common voles (Microtus arvalis), 110 yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis), or 15 stripped field mice (Apodemus agrarius) trapped during the study, or the by-catch of 8 Eurasian pygmy shrews (Sorex minutus) or 6 common shrews (Sorex araneus). A total of 1106 Ixodes ricinus and 476 Haemaphysalis concinna ticks were collected from vegetation, and 404 I. ricinus, 28 H. concinna ticks, and 15 Ctenophtalmus assimilis and 10 Nosopsyllus fasciatus fleas were combed off small mammals. One H. concinna female and one nymph collected from the vegetation was found infected with F. tularensis ssp. holarctica by TaqMan polymerase chain reaction, thus resulting a 0.42% (2/476) prevalence. F. tularensis-specific DNA was not detected in environmental water samples, and the examined 100 sheep, 50 cows, and 50 buffalos grazed at the study area were all seronegative. During inter-epizootic periods, F. tularensis ssp. holarctica seems to persist only in the European brown hare-H. concinna cycle at the studied habitat. H. concinna may not serve exclusively as an arthropod vector, but it may also harbor bacteria for 3-4 years through multiple life stages and act as an important reservoir of F. tularensis. Rodent species probably do not serve as true reservoir hosts of tularemia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases