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Borrelia burgdorferi is maintained in nature in transmission cycles alternatively involving ticks and reservoir hosts. Small rodents like Apodemus mice and Clethrionomys voles are the primary reservoir of
Lyme disease in Europe. In this study, we analyzed by SDS-PAGE and Western blot 20 borrelial isolates from xenodiagnostic ticks fed on four Apodemus sp. mice captured in the Staatswald forest (Switzerland). All isolates but one showed a homogeneous protein pattern expressing an outer surface protein, (Osp) A of 32 kDa and an OspB of 35 kDa and reacted with monoclonal antibody (mAb) I 17.3 specific for B. afzelii. One isolate expressed an OspA of 32.5 kDa and an OspB of 35 kDa and did not react with species-specific mAbs I 17.3, D6 and H3TS, but was shown to belong to B. afzelii by Southern blot analysis. The possibility exists that non-cultivatable borreliae are present in xenodiagnostic ticks. However, our results clearly show that Apodemus sp. are reservoir hosts for B. afzelii, since this genospecies is transmitted from Apodemus sp. to feeding larval ticks.