Abstract

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster resulted in contamination of vast areas in Europe. To date, there is little knowledge about the effects of radioactive contamination on tick species. We sampled ticks from vegetation and large-sized wild mammals belonging to orders Carnivora and Artiodactyla at sites with 0.76, 1.91, and 4.50 mSv/hr ionizing radiation background values in the Polesky State Radio-Ecological Reserve of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster zone in spring 2010. Altogether, 122 questing ticks were collected from vegetation. Among collected ticks, Dermacentor reticulatus (Fabricius) was, by far, the most abundant species (99.2%), followed by Ixodes ricnus (L.) (0.8%), which was collected only at the 0.76 mSv/hr site. The average sex ratio female∶male was 2.9∶1.0. In parallel with the present study, we examined 3 Sus scrofa (L.), 2 Nyctereutes procyonoides (Gray), and 1 Alces alces (L.) at the 4.50 mSv/hr site; 96 D. reticulatus ticks were found on 2 N. procyonoides specimens. The mean density and the intensity of infestation were 16 ticks per animal and 48 ticks per infested animal, respectively. Future investigations are warranted to further characterize the role of various tick vectors, vertebrate reservoirs, and diversity of tick-borne pathogens in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

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