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Short-tailed shrews as reservoirs of the agents of Lyme disease and human babesiosis.

Abstract

To determine whether short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda) serve as reservoir hosts for the
Lyme disease spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi) and the agent of human babesiosis (Babesia microti), we examined nymphal ticks that had fed as larvae on shrews collected from 3 enzootic sites in coastal Massachusetts for evidence of infection by either or both of these agents. Xenodiagnosis indicated that 11 of 14 shrews were infected by B. burgdorferi. One of 3 piroplasm-infected shrews also infected ticks with B. microti. In a site where the piroplasm is endemic, 11 of 17 shrews showed patent parasitemias by thin blood smears. Of these, 4 had parasitemias exceeding 40%. Few immature ticks infested shrews, however, suggesting that B. brevicauda, although abundant in some endemic sites and serving as a competent reservoir, would contribute minimally to the population of infected nymphs.

J Parasitol. 1990 Oct;76(5):681-3. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, Non-P.H.S.; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S. [1]