First hawk found with LD carrying ticks

Topics with information and discussion about published studies related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
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First hawk found with LD carrying ticks

Post by RitaA » Mon 10 Feb 2014 9:26


I've posted this in "General" rather than "Science" given that the first link is from the CanLyme site rather than PubMed or the scientific journal itself. It may actually belong in "Science" but I'll leave that to your discretion. ... ing-ticks/
Ontario, Canada, researcher John Scott first to find raptor birds with Lyme Disease and Lyme Disease carrying ticks.

Posted on February 6, 2014 by Canlyme


During a pan-Canadian tick-host study, we detected the spirochetal bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, which causes Lyme disease, in ticks collected from a raptor. Lyme disease is one of a number of zoonotic, tick-borne diseases causing morbidity and mortality worldwide. Larvae of the avian coastal tick, Ixodes auritulus, were collected by wildlife rehabilitators from a Cooper’s hawk, Accipiter cooperii, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Using PCR amplification of the linear plasmid ospA gene of B. burgdorferi, 4 (18%) of 22 larvae were positive. Since these engorged I. auritulus larvae had not had a previous blood meal and B. burgdorferi is rarely transmitted from infected female ticks to their progeny, we propose that Cooper’s Hawks are reservoir-competent hosts of B. burgdorferi. Our tick-host discovery provides the first report of bird-feeding ticks on a Cooper’s Hawk, and exhibits the premiere record of B. burgdorferi-positive ticks on a raptor. Not only are passerine (perching) and gallinaceous (chicken-like) birds involved in the wide dispersal of Lyme disease vector ticks, raptors are now also implicated in the dissemination of B. burgdorferi infected ticks. Although I. auritulus does not bite humans, this tick species plays an integral role in the 4-tick enzootic cycle of B. burgdorferi along the West Coast of North America. In essence, raptors and I. auritulus ticks may help to amplify this infectious agent in nature, and increase the likelihood of people contracting Lyme disease, especially in coastal areas.


A diversity of wild birds act as avian hosts of blood-sucking, hardbodied Ixodes species ticks (Ixodida: Ixodidae). Most commonly, ticks are reported on passerines (Order: Passeriformes), which are also known as perching or songbirds, and some of these ticks are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (hereafter B. burgdorferi), the spirochetal bacterium that causes Lyme disease [1]. This tick-borne spirochetosis can have a multitude of clinical symptoms, including cardiac, cutaneous, endocrine, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, musculoskeletal, neurologic, cognitive, and neuropsychiatric [2-4]. If left untreated or inadequately treated, diverse forms [5,6] of B. burgdorferi can sequester and persist in immunologically deprived and deep-seated sites [7-14]; namely, ligaments and tendons [15,16], muscle [17], brain [18-20], bone [21,22], eyes [23], glial and neuronal cells [24,25], fibroblasts/scar tissue [26]. There are at least 100 different B. burgdorferi genotypes worldwide [27-30], and patients are often negative using the 2-tier Lyme disease serology test despite having Lyme disease [31-33].

Read the full text at the, Journal of Veterinary Science & Medical Diagnosis.

Scott et al., J Vet Sci Med Diagn 2013, 2:4 ... story.html
Vancouver Island hawk is first to be found with ticks carrying Lyme bug

By Amy Smart, Times Colonist February 9, 2014

A Vancouver Island hawk is the first raptor to join the list of species believed to spread Lyme disease.

Research scientist John Scott said the Cooper’s hawk was found with 22 ticks on it, four of which were infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It’s the first raptor, or bird of prey, known to host the bacteria.

“This is the first report of ticks on a Cooper’s hawk,” said research scientist John Scott from Fergus, Ont., where he works for the Lyme Disease Association of Ontario.

It’s the first in the world, really.”

The Cooper’s hawk was found on a doorstep in Oak Bay on Oct. 29, 2012, after it likely flew into a window. It was delivered to the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Metchosin, where it was examined.

“It was alert and in fair condition, but its right eye was closed. That’s where the ticks were found — around the eye and ear,” Wild ARC manager Kari Marks said.

Wild ARC sent the ticks to Scott, who is conducting a nationwide study of Lyme disease, an inflammatory infection that spreads to humans through tick bites. Symptoms range from flu-like symptoms to neurological illnesses, including paralysis.

There are at least six species of ticks on Vancouver Island, Scott said, five of which are involved in the transmission of Lyme disease.

One of those ticks, known as I. auritulus, lives primarily on wild birds. It does not infect humans directly, but it is “heavily involved” in the cycling of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, called Borrelia burgdorferi.

“Even though this tick doesn’t bite humans, it perpetuates the infection and helps hold it in nature,” Scott said. “It helps build the population or infection in the tick population.”

Among the infected ticks found on the hawk were larval ticks. Since they were too young to have their first blood meal, Scott said it means the hawk passed on the disease.

“We believe, based on all the information we have, that Cooper’s hawk is a reservoir host. That means that it’s holding infection in its body,” he said.

Other known reservoir hosts include songbirds, deer mice and rabbits.

Wildlife rehabilitation centres across the country have sent Scott more than 1,000 ticks, found on 172 hosts, for his two-year study. Researchers in Connecticut and Georgia are also contributing to the study.

“I’m frankly surprised at what we’re finding that we didn’t know before, in terms of what ticks are on what mammals. And I’m getting a lot of surprises in your area, too,” Scott said.

He has identified ticks normally found in Eastern Canada as far west as Vancouver Island.

Kamloops-based researcher John Gregson completed the last nationwide study 50 years ago.

“We’re finding a lot of stuff that he didn’t come up with 50 years ago, so that creates a spark,” Scott said.

“And truly, it’s important because we’re testing these ticks for Lyme disease bacteria and we’re finding, to our surprise, that a lot of them are infected when we didn’t think they would be.”
I must admit that I never really gave much thought to ticks that don't bite humans, but still contribute indirectly to the chances of people being infected with Lyme disease. There could well be many more examples of this in nature -- possibly yet to be discovered -- and dependent on a chance event like an injured animal being examined for ticks and then further testing of those ticks for known pathogens.

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Re: First hawk found with LD carrying ticks

Post by ChuckG » Tue 11 Feb 2014 1:04

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Re: First hawk found with LD carrying ticks

Post by admin » Tue 11 Feb 2014 2:49

Topic moved from "General" to "Science".

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Re: First hawk found with LD carrying ticks

Post by Claudia » Tue 11 Feb 2014 15:00

Thanks ChuckG, for posting a link to the full paper. Very interesting for me to note all the sources of the various citations included in the article, and also that John F Anderson is one of this article's co-authors. Dr. Anderson is one of the original team members of the group from Connecticut/Yale that first studied the clustering of the disease in the United States.
Polly Murray, The Widening Circle, page 184

Twenty-five years ago at the first international symposium on Lyme disease at Yale University, Dr. John Anderson from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station made a presentation reporting that in 1983 in East Haddam, Connecticut (a couple of towns north of Lyme, CT, along the Connecticut River), Ixodes ticks were found on twenty-seven different species of birds, and a number of them were infected with the Bb spirochetes. He stated that the reservoir for this infection is in many mammals and birds in the area.

It was obvious from this information that birds are a factor in the spread of infected ticks to new areas.

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