Effect of tick removal on transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi and Ehrlichia phagocytophila by Ixodes scapularis nymphs

J Infect Dis. 2001 Mar 1;183(5):773-8. doi: 10.1086/318818. Epub 2001 Feb 1.


The effect of feeding duration on pathogen transmission was studied for individual ticks infected with either laboratory or field strains of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi and field strains of Ehrlichia phagocytophila, an agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Infected nymphal Ixodes scapularis were allowed to feed individually on mice, and equal numbers were removed at 24-h intervals for < or =96 h. Mice were assayed for infection by culture, serologic testing, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. Fed ticks were assayed by culture or PCR analysis. Transmission of B. burgdorferi did not occur during the first 24 h among 66 attempts, with maximum transmission occurring between 48 and 72 h. A model estimating the probability of infection from individual ticks removed by patients in a Lyme disease-endemic area yielded an overall probability of 4.6%. Infected I. scapularis nymphs transmitted E. phagocytophila within 24 h in 2 of 3 attempts, which indicates that daily tick removal may not be adequate to prevent human infection with this agent.

Publication types

  • 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.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors / microbiology*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / pathogenicity*
  • Ehrlichia / pathogenicity*
  • Ehrlichiosis / prevention & control
  • Ehrlichiosis / transmission*
  • Ixodes / microbiology*
  • Lyme Disease / prevention & control
  • Lyme Disease / transmission*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nymph / microbiology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Serologic Tests
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • Time Factors