Systemic Disease in Peromyscus Leucopus Associated with Borrelia Burgdorferi Infection

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  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
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Sixteen wild Peromyscus leucopus, trapped for the establishment of a breeding colony, developed signs of neurological damage (trembling, incoordination, circling, head tilt, and lameness of the rear legs) 2–47 days after capture in southern Wisconsin. Spirochetes were cultured from the brain of 5/11 mice, and Borrelia burgdorferi was cultured from 1 brain. A spirochete was isolated from the bladder of 1 mouse. The spirochete was identified by fluorescent antibody staining with the monoclonal antibody specific for B. burgdorferi, H5332. Serum antibodies to the spirochete were found in 14/15 mice. Negative results were obtained in all tests for viruses and bacteria, including Listeria (2/2), Mycoplasma (2/2), mouse hepatitis virus (10/10), Theilers's encephalomyelitis virus (GD VII) (8/8), REO 3 virus (2/2), and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (4/4). There was no bacterial growth from brains cultured on eosin methylene blue or blood agar (3/3). Histologic lesions included nonsuppurative cellular infiltrates in the brain, kidney, liver, and lung. Three outbred Swiss-Webster mice were inoculated orally with a suspension of the brain in BSKII medium, and 3 were inoculated with unpassed B. burgdorferi cultured from the brain of a P. leucopus with motor dysfunction. Five of the inoculated mice developed antibody titers of 1:128; one mouse was positive at 1:256. Motor signs of neurologic damage developed in 3/6 mice 2–24 weeks post-inoculation, and B. burgdorferi was detected in the brains of 2 mice by isolation and by fluorescent antibody.