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Med Vet Entomol. 1994 Apr;8(2):172-8.

Problems of isolating Borrelia burgdorferi from ticks collected in United Kingdom foci of Lyme disease.

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Natural Environment Research Council, Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology, Oxford, U.K.


Many isolates of Borrelia burgdorferi have been obtained from ticks and vertebrate tissues collected in North America and continental Europe but only one established culture of United Kingdom Borrelia burgdorferi has been recorded. In this paper we report the isolation of B. burgdorferi from one of 108 tick pools representing 733 ticks and eight-four tissue samples from twenty-six rodents collected in the U.K, and the subsequent failure to establish the isolate (from ticks collected in Fordingbridge) in culture. In contrast, using identical techniques and culture medium, B. burgdorferi was isolated from one of seven tick pools collected in Switzerland, and from a single pool of ticks collected in Slovakia, and both isolates were successfully passaged. Analysis of questing I. ricinus collected from Fordingbridge by direct immunofluorescence showed 6/32 (19%) of adults and 8/108 (7%) of nymphs were positive for B. burgdorferi, although only one nymph contained > or = 1000 spirochaetes. To examine further the problem of isolating U.K. B. burgdorferi, twelve Ixodes ricinus tick samples from Fordingbridge, a recognized focus of Lyme disease, were subjected to isolation and culturing techniques, and the procedures monitored by use of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Whereas 11/12 samples were PCR positive after 2 weeks in culture, only one was PCR positive after 4 weeks. Motile spirochaetes were not visible by dark-field microscopy in any of the cultures. The results indicate that the standard BSK II medium routinely used to isolate and culture B. burgdorferi does not readily support the replication of the Borrelia species endemic to the U.K.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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