The Common Shrew (Sorex araneus): A Neglected Host of Tick-Borne Infections?

Kevin J. Bown, Xavier Lambin, Gill Telford, Diane Heyder-Bruckner, Nicholas H. Ogden, Richard J. Birtles

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36 Citations (Scopus)


Although the importance of rodents as reservoirs for a number of tick-borne infections is well established, comparatively little is known about the potential role of shrews, despite them occupying similar habitats. To address this, blood and tick samples were collected from common shrews (Sorex araneus) and field voles (Microtus agrestis), a known reservoir of various tick-borne infections, from sites located within a plantation forest in northern England over a 2-year period. Of 647 blood samples collected from shrews, 121 (18.7%) showed evidence of infection with Anaplasma phagocytophilum and 196 (30.3%) with Babesia microti. By comparison, of 1505 blood samples from field voles, 96 (6.4%) were positive for A. phagocytophilum and 458 (30.4%) for Ba. microti. Both species were infested with the ticks Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes trianguliceps, although they had different burdens: on average, shrews carried almost six times as many I. trianguliceps larvae, more than twice as many I. ricinus larvae, and over twice as many nymphs (both tick species combined). The finding that the nymphs collected from shrews were almost exclusively I. trianguliceps highlights that this species is the key vector of these infections in this small mammal community. These findings suggest that common shrews are a reservoir of tick-borne infections and that the role of shrews in the ecology and epidemiology of tick-borne infections elsewhere needs to be comprehensively investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947-953
Number of pages7
JournalVector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number7
Early online date31 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Anaplasma
  • Babesia
  • Ixodes
  • Rodents
  • Tick(s)
  • Human garnulocytic ehrlichiosis
  • Babesia-microti infection
  • Ixodes-ricinus ticks
  • Small mammal hosts
  • Borrelia-burgdorferi
  • Anaplasma-phagocytophilum
  • Lyme-Disease
  • Agrestis populations
  • Seasonal dynamics
  • United-Kingdom


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