Association of Borrelia afzelii with rodents in Europe

K. HANINCOVÁ a1a2, S. M. SCHÄFER a1a4a5, S. ETTI a1, H.-S. SEWELL a1a5, V. TARAGELOVÁ a2, D. ZIAK a3, M. LABUDA a2 and K. KURTENBACH a1c1
a1 Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK
a2 Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Science, Dubravská cesta 9, 81364 Bratislava, Slovakia
a3 Department of Zoology, Comenius University, Mlynska dolina, 84215 Bratislava, Slovakia
a4 NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3SR, UK
a5 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK

Article author query
hanincova k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
schafer s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
etti s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
sewell h   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
taragelova v   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ziak d   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
labuda m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
kurtenbach k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) is maintained in nature by complex zoonotic transmission cycles, involving a large variety of vertebrates as hosts and hard ticks of the genus Ixodes as vectors. Recent studies suggest that the genospecies of B. burgdorferi s.l. and sometimes their subtypes are propagated by different spectra of hosts, mainly birds and rodents. In order to test the concept of host-association, we analysed the relationships between Borrelia genospecies, rodent hosts and I. ricinus ticks in an endemic focus of Lyme borreliosis in western Slovakia. Rodents and questing ticks were collected at a forested lowland locality near Bratislava. Tick infestation levels on rodents were determined, and spirochaete infections in ticks and in ear punch biopsies were analysed by PCR followed by genotyping. Mice were more heavily infested with ticks than bank voles, and a higher proportion of mice was infected with spirochaetes than voles. However, the infectivity of voles was much higher than that of mice. The vast majority of infections detected in the skin and in ticks feeding on the rodents represented B. afzelii. In contrast, more than half of all infections in questing ticks collected in the same region of Slovakia were identified as B. valaisiana and B. garinii. In conclusion, whilst the study reveals that mice and voles play different quantitative roles in the ecology of Lyme borreliosis, it demonstrates that B. afzelii is specifically maintained by European rodents, validating the concept of host-association of B. burgdorferi s.l.

(Received June 11 2002)
(Revised July 24 2002)
(Revised September 4 2002)
(Accepted September 4 2002)

Key Words: Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; B. afzelii; rodents; host-association.

c1 Corresponding author: Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, St Mary's Campus, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK. Tel: 0044 20 759 43629. Fax: 0044 20 759 43693. E-mail: