We examined the role of lizards in the ecology of Lyme disease in New York and Maryland. We collected data on vector tick infestations, measured lizard “realized” reservoir competence for the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, and estimated lizard population density. These data were incorporated into a model that predicts a host's ability to influence the prevalence of B. burgdorferi in the tick population, a primary risk factor in the epidemiology of Lyme disease. Published data on other northeastern hosts were included in the model to provide a reference for interpreting the importance of lizards as hosts. The model results indicate that 5-lined skinks (Eumeces fasciatus) are dilution hosts, capable of reducing infection prevalence in the tick population by 10.7–51.5 percentage points, whereas eastern fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus) are not dilution hosts in the areas studied. Owing to moderate burdens of larval ticks, relatively high population densities, and reservoir incompetence, E. fasciatus may play an important role in the ecology of Lyme disease by reducing vector infection prevalence and associated human risk of infection.
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