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Characterizing the virome of Ixodes ricinus ticks from northern Europe

TittelCharacterizing the virome of Ixodes ricinus ticks from northern Europe
ForfatterPettersson JH1, Shi M, Bohlin J, Eldholm V, Brynildsrud OB, Paulsen KM, Andreassen Å, Holmes E
SammendragRNA viruses are abundant infectious agents and present in all domains of life. Arthropods, including ticks, are well known as vectors of many viruses of concern for human and animal health. Despite their obvious importance, the extent and structure of viral diversity in ticks is still poorly understood, particularly in Europe. Using a bulk RNA-sequencing approach that captures the complete transcriptome, we analysed the virome of the most common tick in Europe - Ixodes ricinus. In total, RNA sequencing was performed on six libraries consisting of 33 I. ricinus nymphs and adults sampled in Norway. Despite the small number of animals surveyed, our virus identification pipeline revealed nine diverse and novel viral species, phylogenetically positioned within four different viral groups - bunyaviruses, luteoviruses, mononegavirales and partitiviruses - and sometimes characterized by extensive genetic diversity including a potentially novel genus of bunyaviruses. This work sheds new light on the virus diversity in I. ricinus, expands our knowledge of potential host/vector-associations and tick-transmitted viruses within several viral groups, and pushes the latitudinal limit where it is likely to find tick-associated viruses. Notably, our phylogenetic analysis revealed the presence of tick-specific virus clades that span multiple continents, highlighting the role of ticks as important virus reservoirs.