Section: Infections
Topic: Biology of interactions, Microbiology, Ecology

A soft tick vector of Babesia sp. YLG in Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) nests

10.24072/pcjournal.316 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article no. e91.

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Abstract Babesia sp. YLG has recently been described in Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) chicks and belongs to the Peircei clade in the new classification of Piroplasms. Here, we studied Babesia sp. YLG vectorial transmission by ticks in the simplified environment of a single seabird breeding colony where the Yellow-legged gull is the sole vertebrate host, Ornithodoros maritimus (syn. Alectorobius maritimus) the sole tick species, and Babesia sp. YLG is the only blood parasite species detected in chicks of the colony. We collected ticks over four years, maintained certain individuals through moulting or oviposition, and dissected fresh ticks to isolate different organs and test for the presence of the parasite using molecular assays. We report the first strong evidence of a Piroplasmidae transmitted by a soft tick. Indeed, Babesia sp. YLG DNA was detected in the salivary glands of nymphs, females and males, a necessary organ to infect for transmission to a new vertebrate host. Parasite DNA was also found in tick ovaries, which could indicate possible transovarial transmission. Our detection of Babesia sp. YLG DNA in several male testes and in endospermatophores, and notably in a parasite-free female (uninfected ovaries and salivary glands), raise the interesting possibility of sexual transmission from infected males to uninfected females. Future work in this system will now need to focus on the degree to which the parasite can be maintained locally by ticks and the epidemiological consequences of infection for both O. maritimus and its avian host. 

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.316
Type: Research article
Keywords: Argasidae, colonial seabirds, blood parasites, Ornithodoros maritimus, Piroplasmidae, transmission ecology

Bonsergent, Claire 1; Vittecoq, Marion 2; Leray, Carole 2; Jouglin, Maggy 1; Buysse, Marie 3, 4; McCoy, Karen D. 3, 4; Malandrin, Laurence 1

1 Oniris, INRAE, BIOEPAR, 44300, Nantes, France
2 Tour du Valat, Research Institute for the Conservation of Mediterranean Wetlands, Arles, France
3 MIVEGEC, University of Montpellier CNRS IRD, Centre IRD, Montpellier, France
4 MEEDiN (Montpellier Ecology and Evolution of Disease Network), Montpellier, France
License: CC-BY 4.0
Copyrights: The authors retain unrestricted copyrights and publishing rights
     author = {Bonsergent, Claire and Vittecoq, Marion and Leray, Carole and Jouglin, Maggy and Buysse, Marie and McCoy, Karen D. and Malandrin, Laurence},
     title = {A soft tick vector of {\protect\emph{Babesia}} sp. {YLG} in {Yellow-legged} gull {(\protect\emph{Larus} michahellis}) nests},
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Bonsergent, Claire; Vittecoq, Marion; Leray, Carole; Jouglin, Maggy; Buysse, Marie; McCoy, Karen D.; Malandrin, Laurence. A soft tick vector of Babesia sp. YLG in Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) nests. Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article  no. e91. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.316.

PCI peer reviews and recommendation, and links to data, scripts, code and supplementary information: 10.24072/pci.infections.100082

Conflict of interest of the recommender and peer reviewers:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

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