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Incompetence of catbirds as reservoirs for the Lyme disease spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi).

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Abstract

We compared the relative infectivity to vector ticks of gray catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) and white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) for the
Lyme disease spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi). Of 28 catbirds captured in a site enzootic for this agent, 18 were infested by immature Ixodes dammini, the tick vector. By comparison, each of 32 mice sampled concurrently from the same site was infested, and by about 10 times as many ticks as were found infesting the 3 most commonly netted bird species. Although 76% of noninfected larval ticks placed on these mice in a xenodiagnosis became infected, none of the ticks similarly placed on 12 catbirds did so. Spirochetes were detected in ticks derived from 2 Carolina wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) and a common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), but these species’ potential contribution to infecting ticks does not compare with that of mice. Thus, although birds may help establish new foci of ticks, catbirds, at least, do not appear to contribute as reservoirs of infection.

J Parasitol. 1989 Feb;75(1):66-9. Comparative Study; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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