Field rodents serve as a reservoir for
Lyme disease spirochetes. To evaluate the antibody responses of rodents against different Borrelia species in relation to fauna of vector ticks feeding on them, we examined 272 sera of wild rodents, Apodemus speciosus, A. argenteus, and Eothenomys smithii, obtained in 27 locations in central and western Japan from 1981 to 1994. As to prevalences by rodent species using immunoperoxidase test, A. speciosus, A. argenteus and E. smithii showed 29.4%, 11.6% and 30.8% reactivity to Borrelia japonica, 10.7%, 7.2% and 3.8% to B. afzelii, 0.6%, 1.4% and 0% to B. garinii, and 14.7%, 7.2% and 11.5% to an unknown Borrelia species designated as It type, respectively. Each antibody to B. japonica, B. afzelii and B. sp. It type was detected widely both in central and western Japan, but the antibody to B. garinii was scarcely detectable in any area and rodent species examined. Apodemus mice in high mountain altitudes tend to have antibody to B. afzelii or B. japonica, and those in lower altitudes tend to have B. japonica or B. sp. It type. All 13 Apodemus mice from which B. japonica or B. sp. It type were isolated showed higher titers of antibodies to each homologous Borrelia species. The present results indicate that these antibody prevalences among rodents may be associated with dominant Ixodes ovatus and sporadic I. persulcatus on the mainland of Japan, and that Apodemus mice may not be an efficient reservoir for B. garinii. Such a serosurvey is a useful measure to evaluate the natural distribution of the pathogen.