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Chickens were used as a laboratory model to determine the conditions affecting the ability of birds to infect ticks with
Lyme disease spirochetes. Chicks (Gallus gallus) were exposed to 12 nymphal Ixodes scapularis at one week or three weeks of age. Xenodiagnostic larval ticks fed these birds at weekly intervals thereafter. Chicks exposed to infected nymphs at one week of age infected 87% of larvae at three weeks of age, but only infected 3% of larvae at four weeks and 0% of larvae at five weeks. Chicks exposed to nymphs at three weeks of age infected only 12% of larvae at four weeks, and 0% thereafter. Thus, experimentally infected chicks can infect larval ticks, but only for a brief interval after exposure. Young chicks are more infectious than older chickens. The immune response of infected chicks was rapid and directed against diverse antigens.