Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases in the Arctic

Ixodes uriae, James L. Occi, PhD LDA Scientific Advisory Board

Karen D. McCoy, et al., published the open access article “Climate change in the Arctic: testing the poleward expansion of ticks and tick-borne diseases” in Global Change Biology on January 26, 2023. In this article, researchers tested the hypothesis that Ixodes uriae (seabird tick) has expanded poleward to the high Arctic in response to climate changes during the past twenty years. 

Population genetic data and host blood analysis was used to test this hypothesis through sampling both ticks and blood collected from seabirds; Black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) and Thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia). 

Researchers discovered the presence of the Lyme disease pathogen (Borrelia garinii) in a high Arctic tick for the first time. Blood from the host seabirds also showed a high exposure rate to these bacteria. Findings from this study indicate that B. garinii has been circulating in the tick and hosts in this isolated Arctic region for an extended time and may not have been influenced by climatic changes. As climatic conditions continue to change, authors recommend close observation of population infestation/infection rates to monitor the impacts. 

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