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Role of small mammals in the ecology of Borrelia burgdorferi in a peri-urban park in north coastal California.

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Abstract

The role of small mammals other than woodrats in the enzootiology of the
Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgorferi, was assessed in the peri-urban park. Mammals were collected monthly from September through to April. Following tick removal, the animals were tested for B. burgdorferi by culture of ear-punch biopsies. Larvae and nymphs that were intermediate in morphology between Ixodes spinipalpis and Ixodes neotomae occurred on several species of rodents (Peromyscus truei, Peromyscus californicus, Microtus californicus, Rattus rattus and Reithrodontomys megalotis) and the brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani). Morphometric analyses of these I. spinipalpis-like ticks and the offspring from two I. neotomae females from the site suggest that I. neotomae may bo conspecific with I. spinipalpis. Borrelia burgdorferi was isolated from eight out of 109 (7.3%), three out of 16 (18.8%), two out of 38 (5.3%) and two out of six (33.3%) P. truei, P. maniculatus, M. californicus and R. rattus, respectively. One bush rabbit yielded the first isolate of B. burgdorferi from a lagomorph in western North America. This isolate and three others derived from unfed I. spinipalpis-like nymphs failed to produce infection when inoculated intradermally into 11-12 P. maniculatus each. Likewise, no spirochetes were detected in 420 Ixodes pacificus nymphs derived from larvae fed on animals inoculated with these isolates. An additional isolate, derived from an I. spinipalpis-like nymph, was recovered by ear-punch biopsies from five our of 12 (42%) needle-inoculated P. maniculatus. However, spirochetes were not detected in 20 I. pacificus nymphs fed as larvae on each of five mice (two infected and three uninfected) inoculated with this isolate. We conclude that brush rabbits and several species of rodents besides woodrats may contribute to the maintenance of B. burgdorferi because they harbour the spirochete and are fed upon by competent enzootic vectors.

Exp Appl Acarol. 1997 Aug;21(8):569-84. Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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