We used an Ixodes scapularis population model to investigate potential northward spread of the tick associated with climate change. Annual degree-days >0 degrees C limits for I. scapularis establishment, obtained from tick population model simulations, were mapped using temperatures projected for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s by two Global Climate Models (the Canadian CGCM2 and the UK HadCM3) for two greenhouse gas emission scenario enforcings 'A2'and 'B2' of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Under scenario 'A2' using either climate model, the theoretical range for I. scapularis establishment moved northwards by approximately 200 km by the 2020s and 1000 km by the 2080s. Reductions in emissions (scenario 'B2') had little effect on projected range expansion up to the 2050s, but the range expansion projected to occur between the 2050s and 2080s was less than that under scenario 'A2'. When the tick population model was driven by projected annual temperature cycles (obtained using CGCM2 under scenario 'A2'), tick abundance almost doubled by the 2020s at the current northern limit of I. scapularis, suggesting that the threshold numbers of immigrating ticks needed to establish new populations will fall during the coming decades. The projected degrees of theoretical range expansion and increased tick survival by the 2020s, suggest that actual range expansion of I. scapularis may be detectable within the next two decades. Seasonal tick activity under climate change scenarios was consistent with maintenance of endemic cycles of the Lyme disease agent in newly established tick populations. The geographic range of I. scapularis-borne zoonoses may, therefore, expand significantly northwards as a consequence of climate change this century.
The blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say (Acari: Ixodidae), has a wide geographical distribution in Ontario, Canada, with a detected range extending at least as far north as the 50th parallel. Our data of 591 adult I. scapularis submissions collected from domestic animals (canines, felines, and equines) and humans during a 10-yr period (1993-2002) discloses a monthly questing activity in Ontario that peaks in May and October. The Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi Johnson, Schmidt, Hyde, Steigerwalt & Brenner was detected in 12.9% of I. scapularis adults collected from domestic hosts with no history of out-of-province travel or exposure at a Lyme disease endemic area. Fifty-three isolates of B. burgdorferi were confirmed positive with polymerase chain reaction by targeting the rrf (5S)-rrl (23S) gene. Using DNA sequencing of the ribosomal species-specific rrf (5S) -rrl (23S) intergenic spacer region, all isolates belong to the pathogenic genospecies B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.). Nucleotide sequence analysis of a 218- to 220-bp amplicon fragment exhibits six cluster patterns and, collectively, these isolates branch into four phylogenetic cluster groups for both untraveled, mammalian hosts and those with travel to the northeastern United States (New Jersey and New York). Four of five geographic regions in Ontario had strain variants consisting of three different genomic cluster groups. Overall, our molecular characterization of B. burgdorferi s.s. shows genetic heterogeneity within Ontario and displays a connecting link to common strains from Lyme disease endemic areas in the northeastern United States. Moreover, our findings of B. burgdorferi in I. scapularis reveal that people and domestic animals may be exposed to Lyme disease vector ticks, which have wide-ranging distribution in eastern and central Canada.