Reservoir-targeted vaccines (RTVs) have the potential to be effective at breaking the transmission cycle of many tick-borne pathogens including, but not limited to, Borrelia burgdorferi, B. miyamotoi, B. mayonii, Babesia microti, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. To determine what proportion of a wild reservoir species we could effectively target, we distributed an experimental non-RTV Rhodamine B (RhB)-coated pellet formulation devoid of nutrient supplementation using bait boxes with ad libitum access, in battery-operated time-release bait stations, and by hand broadcast. Regardless of distribution method, a total of 208 of 242 (86%) white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) captures were positive for RhB by either pelage staining or by detecting fluorescent expression in vibrissae under a microscope. In bait box locations, 91% of captured mice were RhB-positive, 89% in hand broadcast locations, and 80% in time-release station locations. Based on results, we are confident that the bait formulation was readily accepted regardless of distribution technique, reached a substantial proportion of the reservoir population, and provides an effective vehicle to deliver a range of RTVs to targeted, wild, pathogen reservoir populations.
Keywords: Peromyscus leucopus; Rhodamine B; bait acceptance; reservoir-targeted vaccine; zoonotic disease.