Coinfection of tick cell lines has variable effects on replication of intracellular bacterial and viral pathogens

Anna Moniuszko, Claudia Rückert, M. Pilar Alberdi, Gerald Barry, Brian Stevenson, John K. Fazakerley, Alain Kohl, Lesley Bell-Sakyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Ticks transmit various human and animal microbial pathogens and may harbour more than one pathogen simultaneously. Both viruses and bacteria can trigger, and may subsequently suppress, vertebrate host and arthropod vector anti-microbial responses. Microbial coinfection of ticks could lead to an advantage or disadvantage for one or more of the microorganisms. In this preliminary study, cell lines derived from the ticks Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes ricinus were infected sequentially with 2 arthropod-borne pathogens, Borrelia burgdorferi s.s., Ehrlichia ruminantium, or Semliki Forest virus (SFV), and the effect of coinfection on the replication of these pathogens was measured. Prior infection of tick cell cultures with the spirochaete B. burgdorferi enhanced subsequent replication of the rickettsial pathogen E. ruminantium whereas addition of spirochaetes to cells infected with E. ruminantium had no effect on growth of the latter. Both prior and subsequent presence of B. burgdorferi also had a positive effect on SFV replication. Presence of E. ruminantium or SFV had no measurable effect on B. burgdorferi growth. In tick cells infected first with E. ruminantium and then with SFV, virus replication was significantly higher across all time points measured (24, 48, 72. h post infection), while presence of the virus had no detectable effect on bacterial growth. When cells were infected first with SFV and then with E. ruminantium, there was no effect on replication of either pathogen. The results of this preliminary study indicate that interplay does occur between different pathogens during infection of tick cells. Further study is needed to determine if this results from direct pathogen-pathogen interaction or from effects on host cell defences, and to determine if these observations also apply in vivo in ticks. If presence of one pathogen in the tick vector results in increased replication of another, this could have implications for disease transmission and incidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-422
Number of pages8
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the Wellcome Trust grant no. 088588 “Establishment and maintenance of a global tick cell line collection” (MPA, LB-S), and by a Roslin Institute BBSRC Strategic Programme Grant (AK, JKF, GB). AM received a Polish School of Medicine Memorial Fund Scholarship from the University of Edinburgh. CR is an Early-Stage Researcher supported by the POSTICK ITN (Post-graduate training network for capacity building to control ticks and tick-borne diseases) within the FP7-PEOPLE-ITN programme (EU Grant no. 238511). We would like to thank Ulrike Munderloh, University of Minnesota, for providing the ISE6 cell line, Rennos Fragkoudis, The Roslin Institute, and Andres Merits, University of Tartu, for providing virus constructs, Ian Handel, The Roslin Institute, for help with statistical analysis, and Dr. Maria Dlugolecka-Graham, Polish School of Medicine Coordinator for The University of Edinburgh.


  • Borrelia
  • Coinfection
  • Ehrlichia
  • Ixodes spp
  • Semliki Forest virus
  • Tick cell line

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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