Reservoir Competence of White-Footed Mice for Lyme Disease Spirochetes

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  • Department of Tropical Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Using the vector tick, Ixodes dammini, we described the reservoir competence of the white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus, for the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi. Nymphal I. dammini were used to infect mammals, and larval ticks were used to diagnose infection (a form of xenodiagnosis). One tick was nearly as efficient as more than 1 in transmitting the spirochete to mice. The duration of the prepatent period was about 1 week. Prevalence of infection approached 100% in ticks that fed as larvae on mice infected 2 or 3 weeks previously. Thereafter, infectivity gradually decreased, but duration exceeded 200 days. Hamsters, too, became infectious for larval I. dammini. This report formally demonstrates the life cycle of B. burgdorferi as it seems to occur in nature. We conclude that the white-footed mouse is a competent reservoir for the Lyme disease spirochete.

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