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Identification of endemic foci of Lyme disease: isolation of Borrelia burgdorferi from feral rodents and ticks (Dermacentor variabilis).

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Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiological agent of
Lyme disease, was isolated from the blood, kidneys, spleens, eyes, or livers of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) (n = 19 of 22) and from the blood, kidneys, or spleens of eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) (n = 2 of 2) captured at three foci for
Lyme disease in eastern Connecticut. These bacteria were cultured most frequently from spleens (n = 19) and kidneys (n = 15). B. burgdorferi persisted in one mouse for at least 60 days. One spirochetemic mouse had infected Ixodes dammini and Dermacentor variabilis larvae attached, suggesting that these ticks may have acquired spirochetes from the host. Spirochetes isolated from P. leucopus, T. striatus, and D. variabilis larvae were serologically and genetically indistinguishable from reference B. burgdorferi isolates. We conclude that isolation of spirochetes from feral rodents is a method for identifying endemic areas of
Lyme disease.

J Clin Microbiol. 1985 Jul;22(1):36-8. Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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