Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Borrelia in pigeons: no serological evidence of Borrelia burgdorferi infection.

Abstract

The supposed involvement of urban pigeons (Columba livia livia) in the epidemiology of Lyme disease was investigated in Italy. Sera were collected from pigeons in 12 areas of northern and central Italy and tested for the presence of antibodies against B. burgdorferi and B. anserina using an immunofluorescence assay (IFA), a surface immunofluorescence assay (SIFA) and a standard western blot (WB) assay. A total of 104 (3.26%) of 3186 serum samples were positive for both spirochaetes when tested by IFA, with titres ranging from 1/40 to 1/1280. All positive specimens showed the same or a higher reactivity against B. anserina than against B. burgdorferi. Of the IFA positive samples, 30 were tested by WB and SIFA to evaluate further the specificity of the antibody response, i.e. to try to clarify against which spirochaete the antibodies were raised. The presence of antibodies against the 23 kDa protein exclusive to B. anserina, and against epitopes which are not surface-exposed and which are common to B. anserina and B. burgdorferi, was assessed by WB and SIFA. No serological evidence of B. burgdorferi infection was found. It is concluded that B. anserina was the likely agent responsible for infection of the pigeons.