Borrelia burgdorferi and Babesia microti: efficiency of transmission from reservoirs to vector ticks (Ixodes dammini)

Exp Parasitol. 1990 Jan;70(1):55-61. doi: 10.1016/0014-4894(90)90085-q.


In endemic regions, Peromyscus leucopus, the mouse reservoir of the Lyme disease spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi) and the piroplasm causing human babesiosis (Babesia microti), is nearly universally infected with both agents. Paradoxically, spirochetal infection is nearly twice as prevalent as is babesial infection in populations of field-collected nymphal Ixodes dammini, the tick vector. In the laboratory, a similarly disproportionate rate of infection was observed among nymphal ticks, feeding as larvae, on either B. burgdorferi- or B. microti-infected mice. Ticks which fed on mice with concurrent spirochetal and babesial infections also exhibited twice the incidence of spirochetal infection over that of the piroplasm. These data suggest that the efficiency of acquisition and transstadial passage of B. burgdorferi and B. microti infection differ by a factor of two. This discrepancy may explain differences observed both in the prevalence of infection in ticks collected in the field, as well as the apparently greater risk of spirochetal infection to humans in endemic areas.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors / microbiology
  • Arachnid Vectors / parasitology*
  • Babesia / physiology*
  • Babesiosis / parasitology
  • Babesiosis / transmission
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / physiology*
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • Lyme Disease / parasitology
  • Lyme Disease / transmission
  • Lyme Disease / veterinary
  • Nymph / parasitology
  • Peromyscus / parasitology
  • Rodent Diseases / parasitology
  • Rodent Diseases / transmission
  • Ticks / microbiology
  • Ticks / parasitology*