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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2009 Dec;9(6):603-10. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2008.0091.

Dermatologic changes induced by repeated Ixodes scapularis bites and implications for prevention of tick-borne infection.

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University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, Connecticut, USA.


Previous studies in rodents and people have demonstrated that repeated tick exposure is associated with reduced Borrelia burgdorferi transmission but the mechanism of prevention remains unclear. We examined the acute histopathologic reactions to initial and repeated Ixodes scapularis bites in BALB/c mice and in people. Skin biopsies of BALB/c mice infested for the first time by I. scapularis nymphs revealed vascular dilatation and an accumulation of inflammatory cells adjacent to the bite site but absent at the site of tick attachment. Such changes would enhance tick-borne pathogen transmission. Mice reexposed to I. scapularis nymphs experienced a decrease in vascular dilatation and a marked increase in inflammatory cells at the site of tick attachment. Skin biopsies of people with attached I. scapularis nymphs revealed similar histologic patterns. These results indicate that cellular changes at the tick-dermal interface following I. scapularis attachment are likely to allow for successful transmission of tick-borne pathogens in non-tick-immune hosts and to inhibit tick-borne pathogen transmission in hosts that have developed tick immunity.

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