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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e55377. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055377. Epub 2013 Jan 31.

Introduced Siberian chipmunks (Tamias sibiricus barberi) contribute more to lyme borreliosis risk than native reservoir rodents.

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INRA, UR346 Epidémiologie Animale, Saint Genès Champanelle, France.


The variation of the composition in species of host communities can modify the risk of disease transmission. In particular, the introduction of a new host species can increase health threats by adding a new reservoir and/or by amplifying the circulation of either exotic or native pathogens. Lyme borreliosis is a multi-host vector-borne disease caused by bacteria belonging to the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex. It is transmitted by the bite of hard ticks, especially Ixodes ricinus in Europe. Previous studies showed that the Siberian chipmunk, Tamias sibiricus barberi, an introduced ground squirrel in the Forest of Sénart (near Paris, France) was highly infested by I. ricinus, and consequently infected by B. burgdorferi sl. An index of the contribution of chipmunks to the density of infected questing nymphs on the vegetation (i.e., the acarological risk for humans) was compared to that of bank voles (Myodes glareolus) and of wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus), two known native and sympatric competent reservoir hosts. Chipmunks produced nearly 8.5 times more infected questing nymphs than voles and mice. Furthermore, they contribute to a higher diversity of B. burgdorferi sl genospecies (B. afzelii, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto and B. garinii). The contribution of chipmunks varied between years and seasons, according to tick availability. As T. s. barberi must be a competent reservoir, it should amplify B. burgdorferi sl infection, hence increasing the risk of Lyme borreliosis in humans.

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