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J Clin Microbiol. 2004 Mar;42(3):1123-8.

Isolation and characterization of Borrelia hermsii associated with two foci of tick-borne relapsing fever in California.

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Division of Communicable Disease Control, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California 95899-7413, USA.


Relapsing fever, caused by the spirochete Borrelia hermsii and transmitted by the soft tick Ornithodoros hermsi, is endemic in many rural mountainous areas of California. Between 1996 and 1998, 12 cases of relapsing fever associated with two exposure sites in northern California were investigated. Follow-up at exposure sites included collection of soft ticks and serum specimens from sylvatic rodents. Attempts to cultivate spirochetes were made through inoculation of patient blood into mice and by feeding Ornithodoros ticks on mice. Three isolates of B. hermsii were recovered from two blood specimens and one pool of ticks. The protein and plasmid profiles of the three isolates were comparable to those of previous B. hermsii isolates from the western United States. Western immunoblotting of patient sera demonstrated an expanding immunologic response to antigens within four distinct molecular weight regions by 3 to 4 weeks postonset. Antibody to B. hermsii was detected in sera from 4 of 11 yellow-pine chipmunks (Tamias amoenus); no other rodent species collected were seropositive.

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