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J Med Entomol. 1996 Sep;33(5):805-11.

Relationship between Ixodes ricinus density and prevalence of infection with Borrelia-like spirochetes and density of infected ticks.

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Department of Zoology, University of Uppsala, Sweden.


During 1994-1995 we examined the density of questing Ixodes ricinus (L.) nymphs and their prevalence of infection with Borrelia-like spirochetes at 43 localities in south-central Sweden with median nymphal densities ranging from 0.1 to > 50/100 m2. The general pattern was that the infection prevalence in nymphs increased with nymphal density at < 10 nymphs per 100 m2, peaked (20-30%) at 10-20 nymphs per 100 m2, and decreased at higher nymphal densities. A low infection prevalence (7-10%) in nymphs at 4 of the 5 localities with the highest nymphal densities (> 35 nymphs per 100 m2) at the small island of Bedarön was most likely related to the presence of large numbers of fallow deer, Dama dama (L.), which are reservoir-incompetent for Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt & Brenner. However, because the increase in nymphal density at Bedarön was greater than the decrease in infection prevalence, 5 of the 6 highest densities of infected nymphs occurred in the 5 localities at Bedarön. We suggest that reservoir-incompetent cervids, being more important hosts for adult 1. ricinus than for the larvae, indirectly increase the density of infected nymphal ticks by feeding large numbers of adult ticks, thereby increasing the number of larvae feeding on reservoir-competent shrews, rodents, and hares.

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