Risk for the introduction of exotic ticks and pathogens into Italy through the illegal importation of tortoises, Testudo graeca.Med Vet Entomol 2010; 24(3):336-9MV
In April 2008, 585 tortoises illegally imported into Italy from North Africa were examined for the presence of ticks. Of these, 221 tortoises (37.8%) were infested with a mean intensity of 3.9 +/- 3.1 ticks (range 1-17 ticks). A total of 798 ticks (672 males, 125 females and one nymph) were collected and identified as Hyalomma aegyptium (L.) (Acari: Ixodidae). The overall male : female ratio observed was 5 : 1. The prevalence and mean intensity [+/-standard deviation (SD)] of ticks were higher among male (67.4%, 4.0 +/- 3.2) than female (55.6%, 3.8 +/- 3.1) tortoises, although this difference was not significant. By contrast, the prevalence and mean intensity of ticks were significantly higher on tortoises weighing >100 g (61.5%, 4.0 +/- 3.2) compared with tortoises weighing <100 g (12.1%, 2.1 +/- 1.1). Of the infested tortoises, 89.8% had ticks on their hind limbs, 21.0% on forelimbs, 18.6% on the tail and pre-anal area, and 4.8% on the head; thus the hind limbs were evidently the preferred attachment site. The present report highlights the need to develop surveillance systems to prevent the introduction and spreading of exotic ticks and tick-borne pathogens in Italy and other European countries.