A total of 237 rodents was collected in 4 regions of South Carolina from July 1994 through December 1995. Eight species were collected, including cotton mouse, hispid cotton rat, eastern woodrat, marsh rice rat, white-footed mouse, eastern harvest mouse, golden mouse, and black rat. Of the 1,514 ticks recovered from these hosts, Ixodes minor Neumann, including larvae, nymphs, and adults, was the most abundant species, representing 54% of the total. Only immature stages of other tick species were found, including larvae and nymphs of Dermacentor variabilis (Say), Amblyomma maculatum Koch, Ixodes affinis Neumann, and Ixodes scapularis Say. All 5 tick species parasitized cotton mice, cotton rats, and woodrats, which were the most important small mammal hosts for ticks at the localities studied. Rice rats were hosts of A. maculatum, D. variabilis, and I. minor. Amblyomma maculatum was more strongly associated with cotton rats than other rodent species. Ixodes scapularis was most strongly associated with cotton mice, and I. minor was more strongly associated with both woodrats and cotton mice than other species of rodents. Ixodes minor parasitized hosts in the Coastal Zone only, where among spirochete-infected hosts, it was present in significantly greater numbers than other ticks. Furthermore, I. minor was the only tick species that showed a statistically significant positive association with spirochetal infection in rodents. More I. affinis parasitized spirochete-infected hosts than I. scapularis, but fewer than I. minor. The findings discussed herein provide evidence that implicates I. minor as the possible primary enzootic vector of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt and Brenner in the Coastal Zone of South Carolina. They also indicate that the high level of B. burgdorferi infection in rodents from this region may be a function of the combined involvement of I. minor, I. affinis, and I. scapularis in the enzootic transmission of the spirochete.
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