Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia miyamotoi in Atlantic Canadian wildlife

PLoS One. 2022 Jan 21;17(1):e0262229. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0262229. eCollection 2022.


Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia miyamotoi are tick-vectored zoonotic pathogens maintained in wildlife species. Tick populations are establishing in new areas globally in response to climate change and other factors. New Brunswick is a Canadian maritime province at the advancing front of tick population establishment and has seen increasing numbers of ticks carrying B. burgdorferi, and more recently B. miyamotoi. Further, it is part of a region of Atlantic Canada with wildlife species composition differing from much of continental North America and little information exists as to the presence and frequency of infection of Borrelia spp. in wildlife in this region. We used a citizen science approach to collect a wide range of animals including migratory birds, medium-sized mammals, and small mammals. In total we tested 339 animals representing 20 species for the presence of B. burgdorferi and B. miyamotoi. We have developed new nested PCR primers and a protocol with excellent specificity for detecting both of these Borrelia species, both single and double infections, in tissues and organs of various wildlife species. The positive animals were primarily small non-migratory mammals, approximately twice as many were infected with B. burgdorferi than B. miyamotoi and one animal was found infected with both. In addition to established reservoir species, the jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis) was found frequently infected; this species had the highest infection prevalence for both B. burgdorferi and B. miyamotoi and has not previously been identified as an important carrier for either Borrelia species. Comprehensive testing of tissues found that all instances of B. burgdorferi infection were limited to one tissue within the host, whereas two of the five B. miyamotoi infections were diffuse and found in multiple systems. In the one coinfected specimen, two fetuses were also recovered and found infected with B. miyamotoi. This presumptive transplacental transmission suggests that vertical transmission in mammals is possible. This finding implies that B. miyamotoi could rapidly spread into wildlife populations, as well as having potential human health implications.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / microbiology*
  • Birds / microbiology
  • Borrelia / classification
  • Borrelia / genetics
  • Borrelia / isolation & purification*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / classification
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / genetics
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / isolation & purification*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Disease Vectors
  • Fetus / microbiology
  • Lyme Disease / diagnosis
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology
  • Lyme Disease / veterinary
  • Mice
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA, Bacterial

Supplementary concepts

  • Borrelia miyamotoi

Grants and funding

This study was funded by a Venture grant from the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation to CBZ (2018; and a Discovery Grant (RGPIN/4426-2015) from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada ( to VKL.The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.