To investigate the reservoir role of the lizard Psammodromus algirus for the Lyme disease spirochete, 199 lizards were trapped from April to October 2003 in El Jouza, northwestern Tunisia. In this site, the infection rate of free-living Ixodes ricinus (L.) by Borrelia was evaluated by immunofluorescence as 34.6% for adult ticks and 12.5% for nymphs. Eighty percent of P. algirus (117/146) captured during this study were infested by I. ricinus, the predominant tick species collected from lizards. The intensity of tick infestation of this host by larvae and nymphs ranged from 0.14 to 7.07 and from 1.5 to 6.58, respectively. These immature stages of I. ricinus were found on lizards in spring and the beginning of summer, with a peak of intensity during June (10.16 immature ticks by lizard). Tissue cultures from lizards and xenodiagnosis with larval I. ricinus were used to assess the infection and the ability, respectively, of infected lizards to transmit Borrelia to naive ticks. Seventeen percent of xenodiagnostic ticks (40/229) acquired B. lusitaniae while feeding on P. algirus. Therefore, we demonstrated the ability of the lizards to sustain Borrelia infection and to infect attached ticks, and we proved that P. algirus is a reservoir host competent to transmit B. lusitaniae.
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Vol. 43 • No. 4