Rodent species as natural reservoirs of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in different habitats of Ixodes ricinus in The Netherlands

F. Gassner, W. Takken, C. Plas, P. Kastelein, A.J. Hoetmer, M. Holdinga, L.S. van Overbeek

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Rodents are natural reservoirs for human pathogenic spirochaetes of the Borrelia burgdorferi complex [B. burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.)], and the pathogens are transmitted by Ixodes ricinus ticks to humans in The Netherlands. B. burgdorferi s.l. infection prevalence in questing ticks, rodents, and ticks feeding on these rodents, all sampled within the same short time span of five days in three different areas in The Netherlands, were compared in order to establish the relationship between ticks, reservoir hosts, and B. burgdorferi s.l. Questing nymphs were found in all 3 areas and numbers differed per area and even per site within areas. Infection prevalence in questing nymphs ranged between 0 and 20%. Apodemus sylvaticus and Myodes glareolus were the dominant rodents captured, and their numbers differed per area. Infection prevalence, determined by ear biopsies, ranged between 0 and 33.3% for both rodent species. Larvae were most frequently found feeding on these rodents, and their Borrelia infection prevalence ranged between 0 and 6.3% (A. sylvaticus) and between 0 and 29.4% (M. glareolus). The burden of nymphs feeding on rodents was low and varied per area with only 2 of 42 nymphs infected. Comparisons made on the basis of infection prevalence indicated that there was no clear relationship between rodents and questing nymphs when sampled within the same short time span. However, a possible relationship was present when questing ticks were sampled over longer periods in time (months) within or near the same areas (range of infection prevalence between 3.7 and 39.4). Confounding factors thus play a role in the interaction between rodents, ticks, and B. burgdorferi s.l., and it is very likely that other reservoir host species are responsible for the observed fluctuations. It is concluded that the local variations in rodent-Borre/ia-tick interactions only partially explain the Lyme borreliosis risk in the sites studied and that other ecological determinants, notably vertebrate hosts and vegetation structure, should be incorporated in future studies of Lyme borreliosis risk.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-458
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • lyme borreliosis
  • ticks
  • transmission
  • association
  • populations
  • infections
  • ehrlichia
  • ixodidae
  • forests
  • acari


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