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In the epidemiology of infectious diseases, the basic reproduction number, R0, has a number of important applications, most notably it can be used to predict whether a pathogen is likely to become established, or persist, in a given area. We used the R0 model to investigate the persistence of 3 tick-borne pathogens; Babesia microti, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in an Apodemus sylvaticus-Ixodes ricinus system. The persistence of these pathogens was also determined empirically by screening questing ticks and wood mice by PCR. All 3 pathogens behaved differently in response to changes in the proportion of transmission hosts on which I. ricinus fed, the efficiency of transmission between the host and ticks and the abundance of larval and nymphal ticks found on small mammals. Empirical data supported theoretical predictions of the R0 model. The transmission pathway employed and the duration of systemic infection were also identified as important factors responsible for establishment or persistence of tick-borne pathogens in a given tick-host system. The current study demonstrates how the R0 model can be put to practical use to investigate factors affecting tick-borne pathogen persistence, which has important implications for animal and human health worldwide.