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The efficiency with which the spirochaete Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto was transmitted from laboratory mice to larval and nymphal Ixodes ricinus ticks was assessed, using the polymerase chain reaction. The transmission efficiency to nymphs was significantly greater than to larvae when both fed together on the same host. Increased tick infestation levels of mice were correlated with significantly greater engorgement weights and higher B. burgdorferi transmission coefficients from mice to nymphs. These observations indicate that both the feeding success of ticks and the transmission coefficients from host to tick may be influenced by the tick infestation level of an infected host. The infestation level and the relative numbers of each life stage of the tick are factors which should be considered in the design of transmission experiments.