Reservoir Competence of the Meadow Vole (Rodentia: Cricetidae) for the Lyme Disease Spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi

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The reservoir competence of the meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus Ord, for the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt & Brenner was established on Patience Island, RI. Meadow voles were collected from 5 locations throughout Rhode Island. At 4 of the field sites, M. pennsylvanicus represented only 4.0% (n = 141) of the animals captured. However, on Patience Island, M. pennsylvanicus was the sole small mammal collected (n = 48). Of the larval hodes scapularis Say obtained from the meadow voles on Patience Island, 62% (n = 78) was infected with B. burgdorferi. Meadow voles from all 5 locations were successfully infected with B. burgdorferi in the laboratory and were capable of passing the infection to xenodiagnostic I. scapularis larvae for 9 wk. We concluded that M. pennsylvanicus was physiologically capable of maintaining B. burgdorferi infection. However, in locations where Peromyscus leucopus (Rafinesque) is abundant, the role of M. pennsylvanicus as a primary reservoir for B. burgdorferi was reduced.

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Journal of Medical Entomology