Arthropods and associated pathogens from native and introduced rodents in Northeastern Italy.
Introduced Siberian chipmunks Eutamias sibiricus have been reported to be important reservoirs for human Lyme disease, as they may host high numbers of hard ticks carrying Borrelia spp. and other pathogens. In the present study, we assessed the prevalence of Borrelia spp. and other pathogenic bacteria in ectoparasite arthropod species infesting Siberian chipmunks and coexisting native small rodents. Small rodents were trapped with Sherman traps in Veneto (NE Italy), where the largest Italian populations of chipmunks occur. A total of 14 individual ticks were found on 223 rodents, with 6 more ticks obtained from stored dead chipmunks from the same study area. Ectoparasites were screened for pathogens by molecular analyses including species-specific PCR amplifications. Rickettsia monacensis, Borrelia lusitaniae, and Anaplasma platys were present in the parasites of both native rodents and introduced chipmunks. The present findings suggest a role for the invasive species E. sibiricus in the maintenance of the Ixodes ricinus life cycle, which may result in the modification of the transmission dynamics of tick-borne pathogens. Moreover, the presence of Rickettsia in urban populations of chipmunks may represent a serious risk for human health and should be investigated further.