Volume 52, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



To determine whether protective immunity against the agent of Lyme disease may be expressed mainly within its tick vector prior to transmission, we passively immunized mice at various intervals after infected ticks had attached, and assayed such mice for evidence of spirochetal infection by xenodiagnosis one month after challenge. Groups of CD-1 mice were intraperitoneally infused with 0.5 ml of hyperimmune rabbit or mouse serum, reagents and quantities previously determined to protect against syringe-challenge with 10 low-passage JD1 spirochetes 12 hr after passive transfer. Comparison groups received normal rabbit serum or saline. All mice were protected from infection when infused no more than one day after infective ticks were allowed to attach. However, if infused three or five days post-tick attachment, 60–100% of the mice became infected. All mice became persistently infected when infused with saline or normal rabbit serum. We conclude that antibody is protective against tick-transmitted spirochetal infection only when passively administered before the spirochetes are deposited in the skin of the host. Ingested antibody may destroy spirochetes or interfere with activation and replication within the tick gut, or with dissemination to the salivary glands. Lyme disease vaccines may thus be uniquely effective because of the vulnerability of the spirochetal agent within its vector.


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