Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi Johnson, Schmidt, Hyde, Steigerwalt & Brenner; babesiosis, caused by Babesia microti Franca; and human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, caused by Anaplasma phagocytophilum Bakken & Dumler have been reported in Wisconsin, mainly in the endemic areas of the northwestern part of the state. People exposed to blacklegged ticks, Ixodes scapularis Say, from this region can potentially contract one or all of these diseases concurrently. Within the past several years, there have been cases of
Lyme disease reported from southeastern Wisconsin, an area that contains deer, mice, and similar vegetation found at regions with high endemicity. However, past white-tailed deer surveys suggested no existence of I. scapularis in southeastern Wisconsin. However, in 1996, we identified questing adult I. scapularis in the southernmost part of the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest, Walworth County. To determine whether an established population of I. scapularis exists in this region, we performed a detailed survey of the abundance of host-seeking I. scapularis adults and the presence and abundance of subadults feeding on white-footed mice, Peromyscus leucopus Rafinesque. We also tested for possible infections of B. burgdorferi, Ba. microti, and A. phagocytophilum in ticks and B. burgdorferi harbored by mice. In 1997 and 1998, a total of 249 P. leucopus mice and 118 questing adult I. scapularis ticks, in addition to 157 larvae and seven nymphs feeding on mice, were collected and their locations were recorded from the Nordic trails of the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest. Only one P. leucopus and its attached engorged I. scapularis nymph were infected with B. burgdorferi, whereas none of the engorged larvae attached to mice were infected. However, 4.2% of questing adult I. scapularis were infected with B. burgdorferi. The abundance of questing adult I. scapularis was 1.6 ticks per hour. The prevalence of subadult ticks on mice was 27%, with a mean intensity on infested mice of 2.0. I. scapularis adults were not infected with either Ba. microti or A. phagocytophilum. A unique strain of B. burgdorferi s.l. (W97F51) was discovered, showing 33 nucleotide substitutions and one codon insertion in a 567-bp fragment of the OspB gene, compared with Borrelia bissettii (strain Ca389). The sequences of ospA, ospB, ospC,fla, and rrs genes and the rrf-rrl intergenic spacer region were compared between W97F51 and other B. burgdorferi s.l. species. Although W97F51 was most genetically related to B. bissettii, the genetic identity of W97F51 was less than that of B. bissettii conspecifics. This study documents the existence of an established population of I. scapularis and the presence of B. burgdorferi with a novel strain in southeastern Wisconsin.