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Sylvatic maintenance of Borrelia burgdorferi (Spirochaetales) in Northern California: untangling the web of transmission.

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Abstract

Lyme borreliosis is associated with several genospecies of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) (Spirochaetales), but human
disease has been associated only with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.) Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt & Brenner in the western United States. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of rrf-rrl amplicons from 124 tick and mammalian isolates from various habitats yielded 13 RFLP patterns. Of these patterns, six were patterns previously associated either with Borrelia bissettii Postic, Marti Ras, Lane, Hendson & Baranton or Borrelia burgdorferi s.s., and the remaining seven patterns belonged to diverse and previously uncharacterized Borrelia spp. Uncharacterized Borrelia spp. were cultured most frequently from Ixodes spinipalpis Hadwen & Nuttall and California kangaroo rats, Dipodomys californicus Merriam, inhabiting grasslands, and B. bissettii from I. spinipalpis and dusky-footed woodrats, Neotoma fuscipes Baird, associated with oak woodlands or chaparral. B. burgdorferi s.s. typically was isolated from host-seeking Ixodes pacificus Cooley & Kohls collected in dense oak woodlands, woodland-grass, or redwood forests. Although some isolates of B. burgdorferi s.s. were cultured from woodrats, there was no clear association of this human pathogen with any vertebrate host. These findings, along with recent evidence indicating that the western gray squirrel, Sciurus griseus Ord, may be an important reservoir of B. burgdorferi s.s. in Californian oak woodlands, suggest that our earlier hypothesis implicating an enzootic cycle involving woodrats and I. spinipalpis is insufficient to account for observed patterns of infection in nature.

J Med Entomol. 2006 Jul;43(4):743-51. Comparative Study; Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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