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The Rambouillet Forest, a
Lyme disease-endemic area near Paris, France, was surveyed from September 1994 to October 1995 to determine the risk periods and zones for humans. Firstly, during the period of Ixodes ricinus activity, abundance of nymphs is greater in spring than in autumn. Secondly, we observed significant variation in nymphal abundance between zones according to the density of cervids. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to detect DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in 461 unfed nymphs. DNA was detected in 38 nymphs (8.2%). By genospecific PCR based on the OspA gene, we detected the three pathogenic spirochetes with occurrences of 10.3, 31.1 and 58.6 for B. burgdorferi s.s., Borrelia garinii and Borrelia afzelii, respectively, indicating that B. afzelii is probably the main Borrelia species in the Rambouillet Forest. Finally, 11.5% of positive nymphs exhibited a double infection. Infection rates of I. ricinus nymphs by B. burgdorferi s.l. were not significantly different throughout the year for a given area, indicating that the risk periods of acquiring
Lyme disease are mainly linked to nymph activity and correspond to spring and autumn. Likewise infection rates of nymphs were not significantly different between zones with a high density of deer (more than 100 animals per 100 ha) and zones with lower deer density (less than 20 animals per 100 ha). In addition to the role of deer as an amplifier of tick populations, these data indicate that zones with a high density of cervids should be considered as higher risk areas.