Assessing the risk of tick-borne disease in areas with high visitor numbers is important from a public health perspective. Evidence suggests that tick presence, density, infection prevalence and the density of infected ticks can vary between habitats within urban green space, suggesting that the risk of Lyme borreliosis transmission can also vary. This study assessed nymph density, Borrelia prevalence and the density of infected nymphs across a range of habitat types in nine parks in London which receive millions of visitors each year. Ixodes ricinus were found in only two of the nine locations sampled, and here they were found in all types of habitat surveyed. Established I. ricinus populations were identified in the two largest parks, both of which had resident free-roaming deer populations. Highest densities of nymphs (15.68 per 100 m2) and infected nymphs (1.22 per 100 m2) were associated with woodland and under canopy habitats in Richmond Park, but ticks infected with Borrelia were found across all habitat types surveyed. Nymphs infected with Borrelia (7.9%) were only reported from Richmond Park, where Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto and Borrelia afzelii were identified as the dominant genospecies. Areas with short grass appeared to be less suitable for ticks and maintaining short grass in high footfall areas could be a good strategy for reducing the risk of Lyme borreliosis transmission to humans in such settings. In areas where this would create conflict with existing practices which aim to improve and/or meet historic landscape, biodiversity and public access goals, promoting public health awareness of tick-borne disease risks could also be utilised.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The study was funded by the Royal Parks Charity.
The authors would like to acknowledge the support provided by Public Health England's GIS team in developing Esri ArcGIS Collector App forms. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of The Royal Parks or PHE. The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
© 2021, Crown.
- Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto
- Green space
- Lyme disease
- Public health
- Tick-borne disease