The western fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis, is refractory to experimental infection with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, one of several Lyme disease spirochetes pathogenic for humans. Another member of the Lyme disease spirochete complex, Borrelia bissettii, is distributed widely throughout North America and a similar, if not identical, spirochete has been implicated as a human pathogen in southern Europe. To determine the susceptibility of S. occidentalis to B. bissettii, 6 naïve lizards were exposed to the feeding activities of Ixodes pacificus nymphs experimentally infected with this spirochete. None of the lizards developed spirochetemias detectable by polymerase chain reaction for up to 8 wk post-tick feeding, infected nymphs apparently lost their B. bissettii infections within 1–2 wk after engorgement, and xenodiagnostic I. pacificus larvae that co-fed alongside infected nymphs did not acquire and maintain spirochetes. In contrast, 3 of 4 naïve deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) exposed similarly to feeding by 1 or more B. bissettii-infected nymphs developed patent infections within 4 wk. These and previous findings suggest that the complement system of S. occidentalis typically destroys B. burgdorferi sensu lato spirochetes present in tissues of attached and feeding I. pacificus nymphs, thereby potentially reducing the probability of transmission of these bacteria to humans or other animals by the resultant adult ticks.
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