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We determined whether the span of infectivity of
Lyme disease spirochetes (Borrelia burgdorferi) to vector ticks varies with the mode of infection in laboratory mice. Noninfected larval deer ticks were permitted to feed on two strains of spirochete-infected mice that had been naturally (via tick bite) and parenterally (via needle injection) infected with B. burgdorferi 2, 4, or 8 weeks earlier, and engorged ticks were dissected and examined for spirochetes by direct immunofluorescence microscopy. After initial infection, spirochetal infectivity to ticks was less efficient in needle-infected mice than in mice infected via tick bites. Tick-transmitted spirochetes develop more rapidly from the skin of infected mice and do not induce a strong antispirochete antibody response during the early stage of infection.