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J Med Entomol. 1995 Mar;32(2):138-42.

Reservoir competence of the rice rat (Rodentia: Cricetidae) for Borrelia burgdorferi.

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Department of Microbiology, Pathology and Parasitology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh 27606, USA.


The reservoir competence of the rice rat, Oryzomys palustris, for Borrelia burgdorferi is described. Infected Ixodes scapularis Say (I. dammini, Spielman, Clifford, Piesman & Corwin) nymphs were used to infect animals. Borrelia infection was diagnosed by xenodiagnostic feeding of noninfected I. scapularis larvae and by reisolation of the spirochetes from blood and other tissues. Rice rats acquired B. burgdorferi and maintained spirochete infection for 5-9 wk. B. burgdorferi were cultured from samples of skin and urinary bladders from all animals killed on day 21 (three rats), 35 (three rats), or 56 (three rats) after infection. The spirochetes were also detected in blood samples obtained 1 and 2 wk after exposure. Spirochetes that persisted for 5 wk in rice rats did not lose their infectivity for golden Syrian hamsters. The prepatent period for infecting xenodiagnostic ticks was 1 wk. Overall, 75.6% of I. scapularis larvae (n = 694) that fed on infected rice rats acquired B. burgdorferi. Prevalence of infection reached 83% in ticks that fed on tick-exposed animals during the 2nd-4th wk, 68% during the 5th wk, and 17.4% during the 9th wk. The duration of rice rat infectivity for ticks exceeded 2 mo. I. scapularis nymphs infected as larvae on rice rats transmitted B. burgdorferi. Taken together, these studies confirm the reservoir competence of the rice rat for B. burgdorferi.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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