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Laboratory raised white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) were inoculated experimentally with live spirochetes (Borrelia burgdorferi), the etiologic agent of
Lyme disease (borreliosis). Prior to inoculation, mouse sera were tested with an indirect fluorescent antibody test, and all mice were seronegative. All inoculated mice seroconverted. In tick transmission studies, immature stages of Ixodes dammini and Dermacentor variabilis attached and fed to repletion on mice, but only I dammini transferred spirochetes to uninfected mice. Mice were susceptible to oral infection and transmitted infection to each other through direct contact. Infection did not affect reproduction or development of young born from infected dams, nor did spirochetes appear in the tissues of neonates. Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes were identified in the kidneys, liver, and spleen of infected mice by the use of the modified Steiner silver stain and a tissue indirect fluorescent antibody test. Spirochetes also were isolated in culture of the heart blood of 1 mouse. Regardless of the source of infection, no mice developed clinical signs or had any pathologic change resulting from infection. Spirochetes were always observed extracellularly within interstitial spaces. Antibody titers persisted for over 4 months in some mice and spirochetes were found in the tissues of 1 mouse that had been infected 1 year earlier.