An intensive enzootic cycle of Borrelia burgdorferi was seen in populations of the Mexican wood rat, Neotoma mexicana, and Ixodes spinipalpis ticks in northern Colorado. Cultures of rodent ear tissue and ticks yielded 63 spirochetal isolates: 38 N. mexicana, 2 Peromyscus difficilis, and 23 I. spinipalpis. All 63 isolates were identified as B. burgdorferi sensu lato by polymerase chain reaction; a representative subset was characterized as B. burgdorferi by SDS-PAGE and immunoblotting. A tick-derived spirochete isolate was infectious to laboratory mice and I. scapularis, the principal vector of Lyme disease in endemic areas of the United States. The risk of human contact with infected I. spinipalpis appears to be minimal from this epidemiologically silent focus in northern Colorado, since this tick is restricted to wood rat nests in this semiarid environment.
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