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To determine whether the pathogenic variant of
Lyme disease spirochetes, isolate A14S, is perpetuated in a particular reservoir-vector relationship, we screened vector ticks in various Central European sites for a related spirochete and determined its host association. A14S-like spirochetes infect numerous questing ticks in the Petite Camargue Alsacienne (PC). They frequently infect dormice, but no mice or voles. Garden dormice appear to be better reservoir hosts for A14S-like spirochetes than for Borrelia afzelii, because these spirochetes are retained longer and infect ticks more readily. Spirochetes associated with garden dormice in the PC site form a homologous entity with those isolated from a human patient in The Netherlands. Its unique biological relationship together with previous genetic characterization justifies designating this dormouse-associated genospecies as a distinct entity. Garden dormice serve as the main reservoir hosts of a novel genospecies, Borrelia spielmani sp. nov., one of several that cause
Lyme disease in people.