Low Seroprevalence of Human Lyme Disease Near a Focus of High Entomologic Risk

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  • Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Bureau of Health, Department of Human Services, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Portland, Maine

To investigate a low rate of reported human Lyme disease adjacent to an area where the vector tick had become well established, we performed human and canine serosurveys and gathered data on environmental factors related to the risk of transmission. In March 1993, we obtained serum samples and conducted questionnaires that included information on outdoor activities, lot size, and frequency of deer sightings from 272 individuals living within a 5-km strip extending 12 km inland from a study site in south coastal Maine where collections revealed an abundant population of deer ticks. Serologic analysis was done using a flagellin-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) followed by Western immunoblot of positive and equivocal samples. Sera from 71 unvaccinated dogs within the study area were also analyzed for anti-Borrelia antibodies by ELISA. Human seropositivity was limited to two individuals living within 1.2 km of the coast. The frequency of daily deer sightings decreased sharply outside this area. Canine seropositivity, 100% within the first 0.8 km, decreased to 2% beyond 1.5 km. Canine serology appears to correlate with the entomologic indicators of the risk of Lyme disease transmission. Possible explanations for the low human seroprevalence are offered.