At least 38 viral species are transmitted by ticks. Virus–tick–vertebrate host relationships are highly specific and less than 10% of all tick species (Argasidae and Ixodidae) are known to play a role as vectors of arboviruses. However, a few tick species transmit several (e.g. Ixodes ricinus, Amblyomma variegatum) or many (I. uriae) tick-borne viruses. Tick-borne viruses are found in six different virus families (Asfarviridae, Reoviridae, Rhabdoviridae, Orthomyxoviridae, Bunyaviridae, Flaviviridae) and at least 9 genera. Some as yet unassigned tick-borne viruses may belong to a seventh family, the Arenaviridae. With only one exception (African swine fever virus, family Asfarviridae) all tick-borne viruses (as well as all other arboviruses) are RNA viruses. Tick-borne viruses are found in all the RNA virus families in which insect-borne members are found, with the exception of the family Togaviridae. Some tick-borne viruses pose a significant threat to the health of humans (Tick-borne encephalitis virus, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus) or livestock (African swine fever virus, Nairobi sheep disease virus). Key challenges are to determine the molecular adaptations that allow tick-borne viruses to infect and replicate in both tick and vertebrate cells, and to identify the principal ecological determinants of tick-borne virus survival.
Key Words: Arboviruses; tick-borne viruses; ticks; vectors.
c1 Dr M. Labuda, Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dubravska cesta 9, 845 06 Bratislava, Slovakia. Tel: ++421 2 5930 2601. Fax: ++421 2 5930 2646. E-mail: Milan.Labuda@savba.sk