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Lyme disease in California: interrelationship of Ixodes pacificus (Acari: Ixodidae), the western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), and Borrelia burgdorferi.

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Abstract

The relationship of immature western black-legged ticks, Ixodes pacificus Cooley and Kohls, to the western fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis Baird and Girard, and to the
Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, was investigated in chaparral and woodland-grass habitats in northern California from 1984 to 1986. Immature ticks were found on lizards in spring and summer, but the prevalence and abundance of ticks on this host were considerably greater in spring. The peak of larval abundance preceded that of nymphs by several weeks, but there was considerable seasonal overlap between these parasitic stages. Larvae and nymphs attached primarily to the lateral nuchal pockets of lizards in chaparral (99.5%) and woodland-grass (91.8%). The numbers of larvae infesting lizards in spring fit the negative binomial distribution in woodland-grass but not in chaparral; insufficient data precluded similar analyses for nymphs. Tick loads did not differ significantly with respect to age or gender of the lizard. Spirochetal infection rates (range, 0-3.7%) in I. pacificus immatures were comparable in both habitats and were similar to those reported previously for adults of this tick. Overall, 1 (0.9%) of 117 larvae and 10 (1.8%) of 552 nymphs were infected with spirochetes resembling B. burgdorferi. Spirochetes were not observed in blood smears prepared from 261 wild-caught lizards, including five lizards fed upon by infected ticks at the time of collection. These and other findings suggest that S. occidentalis, although an important host of I. pacificus immatures, may be less important as a source for infecting ticks with B. burgdorferi.

J Med Entomol. 1989 Jul;26(4):272-8. Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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