BACKGROUND: Although Ixodes spp. are the most common ticks in North-Western Europe, recent reports indicated
an expanding geographical distribution of Dermacentor reticulatus in Western Europe. Recently, the establishment of
a D. reticulatus population in Belgium was described. D. reticulatus is an important vector of canine and equine
babesiosis and can transmit several Rickettsia species, Coxiella burnetii and tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), whilst
Ixodes spp. are vectors of pathogens causing babesiosis, borreliosis, anaplasmosis, rickettsiosis and TBEV.
METHODS: A survey was conducted in 2008-2009 to investigate the presence of different tick species and associated
pathogens on dogs and cats in Belgium. Ticks were collected from dogs and cats in 75 veterinary practices,
selected by stratified randomization. All collected ticks were morphologically determined and analysed for the
presence of Babesia spp., Borrelia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Rickettsia DNA.
RESULTS: In total 2373 ticks were collected from 647 dogs and 506 cats. Ixodes ricinus (76.4%) and I. hexagonus
(22.6%) were the predominant species. Rhipicephalus sanguineus (0.3%) and D. reticulatus (0.8%) were found in low
numbers on dogs only. All dogs infested with R. sanguineus had a recent travel history, but D. reticulatus were
collected from a dog without a history of travelling abroad. Of the collected Ixodes ticks, 19.5% were positive for
A. phagocytophilum and 10.1% for Borrelia spp. (B. afzelii, B. garinii, B. burgdorferi s.s., B. lusitaniae, B. valaisiana and
B. spielmanii). Rickettsia helvetica was found in 14.1% of Ixodes ticks. All Dermacentor ticks were negative for all the
investigated pathogens, but one R. sanguineus tick was positive for Rickettsia massiliae.
CONCLUSION: D. reticulatus was confirmed to be present as an indigenous parasite in Belgium. B. lusitaniae and
R. helvetica were detected in ticks in Belgium for the first time.