The acquisition of Borrelia burgdorferi by the larvae of competent and refractory ixodid ticks was assessed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Larvae were fed on infected mice, and the spirochete loads were determined during feeding and up to 93 d postfeeding. Amblyomma americanum (L.) was refractory to B. burgdorferi infection, with almost no detection of spirochete DNA during or postfeeding. In contrast, Ixodes scapularis Say supported high loads of spirochetes (103–104 per larva). In Dermacentor variabilis (Say), B. burgdorferi uptake was reduced, with an average of 16 spirochetes per larvae acquired after 4 d of feeding, representing 1/195 of the counts in I. scapularis. However, during the first day postfeeding, the spirochete growth rate in D. variabilis reached 0.076 generations per hour, 7.7 times greater than the highest growth rate detected in I. scapularis. D. variabilis supported intense spirochete growth up to the fourth day postinfection, when the counts increased to an average of 282 spirochetes per larvae or 1/8.5 of the I. scapularis counts 4 d postfeeding. The kinetics of spirochete growth was unstable in D. variabilis compared with I. scapularis, and transmission of B. burgdorferi by D. variabilis could not be demonstrated. A cofeeding experiment indicated that I. scapularis feeding increased A. americanum spirochete uptake. These collective results indicate suboptimal conditions for B. burgdorferi uptake and colonization within A. americanum or the presence of anti-Borrelia factor(s) in this nonpermissive tick species.
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Vol. 43 • No. 1