Investigation of venereal, transplacental, and contact transmission of the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, in Syrian hamsters

J Parasitol. 1999 Jun;85(3):426-30.


A hamster was inoculated with the SI-1 strain of Borrelia burgdorferi and subsequently served as a host to larval Ixodes scapularis Say. Approximately 68% of the nymphs resulting from the fed larvae were infected. Nymphs from this group were fed on uninfected hamsters, and 3 of 4 males and 6 of 6 females became infected. The infected hamsters were allowed to mate with uninfected partners to test for venereal transmission. Six infected females were mated with 6 uninfected males, whereas 3 infected males were mated with 6 uninfected females. None of the uninfected hamsters became infected after mating. Two protocols were used to determine if transplacental transmission of B. burgdorferi occurred. One group included 6 nonpregnant infected females that were subsequently mated and became pregnant. Three of the females were allowed to carry to full term, whereas the other 3 were killed prior to parturition. All fetuses and offspring were negative for B. burgdorferi based on cultures and monoclonal antibody assays. Another group of 6 females was infected via tick bite after becoming pregnant; those females were allowed to carry fetuses to birth and all were negative. Attempts at contact transmission of B. burgdorferi from 2 infected females to 2 uninfected male and 2 uninfected female hamsters and from 2 infected males to 2 uninfected male and uninfected female hamsters via urine or feces failed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors / microbiology
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / isolation & purification
  • Borrelia burgdorferi*
  • Cricetinae
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical*
  • Ixodes / microbiology
  • Lyme Disease / transmission*
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / transmission*
  • Urine / microbiology