Four juvenile gray wolves (Canis lupus) were inoculated with live Borrelia burgdorferi. One received an intravenous inoculum, a second was inoculated subcutaneously, and two more were fed Peromyscus maniculatus sucklings which had earlier been inoculated with B. burgdorferi. The intravenously inoculated wolf developed a generalized lymphadenopathy and a persistent serum antibody titer to the spirochete which peaked at 1:512. Borrelia burgdorferi was visualized in liver sections of this wolf using direct immunofluorescent staining. The subcutaneously inoculated wolf showed a low and transient antibody response which peaked at 1:64, and manifested no clinical or postmortem abnormalities. The wolves which were fed inoculated mice showed no detectable antibody response. They were clinically normal throughout the project, and there were no detectable lesions at necropsy. Two control wolves were inoculated intravenously with formalin killed B. burgdorferi. Serum antibody titers of these controls peaked at 1:64 and 1:32, respectively, and fell to 1:16 by day 48 postinoculation. A survey of serum samples from 78 wild-trapped wolves from Wisconsin and Minnesota revealed that one was positive and another was suspect for B. burgdorferi infection based on presence of antibody to the spirochete. We conclude that the wolf is susceptible to infection by B. burgdorferi and that wolves are being infected in the wild.
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Vol. 24 • No. 3