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Although recombinant outer surface protein A (OspA) of Borrelia burgdorferi protects mice against injected
Lyme disease spirochetes, the mode of protection has not yet been explored. Indeed, the efficacy of vaccine-induced immunity against a realistic vector-mediated challenge remains unexplored. Accordingly, we determined whether this immunogen protects mice against spirochetes delivered by nymphal Ixodes dammini ticks. Following challenge by tick bite, no spirochetes could be cultured from immunized mice, and no characteristic histopathology was found. The spirochete was not detected in ticks that fed on immunized animals and was present in virtually all ticks that fed on nonimmunized mice. We conclude that OspA-immunized mice are protected from spirochetal infection, at least in part, because the spirochete is destroyed in the infecting tick.