An in vitro assay to evaluate the bacteriolytic activity of the complement pathway was applied to 2 strains of Borrelia bissettii, CO501 and DN127, and compared with that of B. burgdorferi sensu stricto B31. Sera from mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and the Western Fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) were completely borreliacidal for B. burgdorferi and for both strains of B. bissettii. Serum from Bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) was nonlytic for B. burgdorferi and partially lytic for B. bissettii strains, CO-501 and DN127. Serum from a New Zealand White rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) was partially lytic for all 3 strains of Borrelia, whereas serum from white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) were nonlytic for all 3 Borrelia strains. The spectrum of complement sensitivity of B. bissettii appears to be similar to that of European B. afzelii in that tested rodent serum is not lytic to these 2 genospecies. Interestingly, both B. bissettii and B. afzelii have been found to be closely associated with rodents. Complement sensitivity demonstrated in these experiments may suggest and possibly predict specific reservoir–host associations.
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