Accelerated transmission of Lyme disease spirochetes by partially fed vector ticks

J Clin Microbiol. 1993 Nov;31(11):2878-81. doi: 10.1128/jcm.31.11.2878-2881.1993.


To determine how rapidly Lyme disease spirochetes (Borrelia burgdorferi) can be transmitted by partially fed vector ticks (Ixodes dammini), attached nymphs were removed from their hosts at various intervals post-attachment and subsequently permitted to re-feed to repletion on noninfected mice. We confirm previous reports that ticks deposit Lyme disease spirochetes in the skin of their hosts mainly after 2 days of attachment. Those that have been removed from a host within this interval can reattach and commence feeding. Spirochete-infected nymphs that have previously been attached to a host for 1 day become infectious to other hosts within another day. Noninfected nymphs acquire infection from spirochete-infected hosts within a day of attachment and become infectious to other hosts 3 to 5 days later. Virtually all ticks transmitted infection when reattaching after first feeding for 2 days. We conclude that partially fed nymphal ticks transmit spirochetal infection more rapidly than do ticks that have never been attached to a host and that infected ticks become infectious before they molt.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Insect Vectors*
  • Lyme Disease / transmission*
  • Mice
  • Ticks / microbiology*