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A comparative test of ixodid tick identification by a network of European researchers

Estrada-Pena A., D'Amico G., Palomar A.M., Dupraz M., Fonville M., Heylen D., Habela M.A., Hornok S., Lempereur L., Madder M., Núncio M.S., Otranto D., Pfaffle M., Plantard O., Santos-Silva M.M., Sprong H., Vatansever Z., Vial L., Mihalca A.D.. 2017. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, 8 (4) : p. 540-546.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2017.03.001

This study reports the results of a comparative test of identification of ticks occurring in Western Europe and Northern Africa. A total of 14 laboratories were voluntarily enrolled in the test. Each participant received between 22 and 25 specimens of adult and nymphal ticks of 11 species: Dermacentor marginatus, D. reticulatus, Haemaphysalis punctata, Hyalomma lusitanicum, Hy. marginatum, Ixodes ricinus, I. hexagonus, Rhipicephalus annulatus, R. bursa, R. rossicus, and/or R. sanguineus s.l. Ticks were morphologically identified by three of the co-authors and the identification confirmed by a fourth co-author who used molecular methods based on several genes. Then ticks were randomly selected and blindly distributed among participants, together with a questionnaire. Only specimens collected while questing and, if possible, in the same survey, were circulated. Because of the random nature of the test, a participant could receive several specimens of the same species. Species in the different genera had variable misidentification rates (MR) of 7% (Dermacentor), 14% (Ixodes), 19% (Haemaphysalis), 36% (Hyalomma), and 54% (Rhipicephalus). Within genera, the MR was also variable ranging from 5.4% for I. ricinus or 7.4% for D. marginatus or D. reticulatus to 100% for R. rossicus. The test provided a total misidentification rate of 29.6% of the species of ticks. There are no significant differences in MR according to the sex of the tick. Participants were requested to perform a second round of identifications on the same set of ticks, using only purposely prepared keys (without illustrations), circulated to the enrolled participants, including 2 species of the genus Dermacentor, 8 of Haemaphysalis, 10 of Hyalomma, 23 of Ixodes, and 6 of Rhipicephalus. The average MR in the second round was 28%: 0% (Dermacentor), 33% (Haemaphysalis), 30% (Hyalomma) 18% (Ixodes), and 50% (Rhipicephalus). Species which are not reported in the countries of a participating laboratory had always highest MR, i.e. purely Mediterranean species had highest MR by laboratories in Central and Northern Europe. Participants expressed their concerns about a correct identification for almost 50% of the ticks of the genera Hyalomma and Rhipicephalus. The results revealed less than total confidence in identifying the most prominent species of ticks in the Western Palearctic, and underpin the need for reference libraries for specialists involved in this task. Results also showed that a combination of certain genes may adequately identify the target species of ticks.

Mots-clés : metastigmata; identification; méthodologie; taxonomie; anatomie animale; biologie moléculaire; test biologique; ixodidae; dermacentor; ixodes; hyalomma; rhipicephalus; haemaphysalis punctata; ixodes ricinus; rhipicephalus sanguineus; génie génétique; europe occidentale; afrique du nord; dermacentor reticulatus; dermacentor marginatus; hyalomma lusitanicum; hyalomma marginatum; ixodeshexagonus; rhipicephalus annulatus; rhipicephalus bursa; rhipicephalus rossicus

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