The lyme disease pathogen has no effect on the survival of its rodent reservoir host.
ABSTRACT: Zoonotic pathogens that cause devastating morbidity and mortality in humans may be relatively harmless in their natural reservoir hosts. The tick-borne bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease in humans but few studies have investigated whether this pathogen reduces the fitness of its reservoir hosts under natural conditions. We analyzed four years of capture-mark-recapture (CMR) data on a population of white-footed mice, Peromyscus leucopus, to test whether B. burgdorferi and its tick vector affect the survival of this important reservoir host. We used a multi-state CMR approach to model mouse survival and mouse infection rates as a function of a variety of ecologically relevant explanatory factors. We found no effect of B. burgdorferi infection or tick burden on the survival of P. leucopus. Our estimates of the probability of infection varied by an order of magnitude (0.051 to 0.535) and were consistent with our understanding of Lyme disease in the Northeastern United States. B. burgdorferi establishes a chronic avirulent infection in their rodent reservoir hosts because this pathogen depends on rodent mobility to achieve transmission to its sedentary tick vector. The estimates of B. burgdorferi infection risk will facilitate future theoretical studies on the epidemiology of Lyme disease.
Project description:The rodent Peromyscus leucopus is the natural reservoir of several tick-borne infections, including Lyme disease. To expand the knowledge base for this key species in life cycles of several pathogens, we assembled and scaffolded the P. leucopus genome. The resulting assembly was 2.45 Gb in total length, with 24 chromosome-length scaffolds harboring 97% of predicted genes. RNA sequencing following infection of P. leucopus with Borreliella burgdorferi, a Lyme disease agent, shows that, unlike blood, the skin is actively responding to the infection after several weeks. P. leucopus has a high level of segregating nucleotide variation, suggesting that natural resistance alleles to Crispr gene targeting constructs are likely segregating in wild populations. The reference genome will allow for experiments aimed at elucidating the mechanisms by which this widely distributed rodent serves as natural reservoir for several infectious diseases of public health importance, potentially enabling intervention strategies.
Project description:UNLABELLED:The rodent Peromyscus leucopus is a major natural reservoir for the Lyme disease agent Borrelia burgdorferi and a host for its vector Ixodes scapularis. At various locations in northeastern United States 10 to 15 B. burgdorferi strains coexist at different prevalences in tick populations. We asked whether representative strains of high or low prevalence differed in their infections of P. leucopus. After 5 weeks of experimental infection of groups with each of 6 isolates, distributions and burdens of bacteria in tissues were measured by quantitative PCR, and antibodies to B. burgdorferi were evaluated by immunoblotting and protein microarray. All groups of animals were infected in their joints, ears, tails, and hearts, but overall spirochete burdens were lower in animals infected with low-prevalence strains. Animals were similar regardless of the infecting isolate in their levels of antibodies to whole cells, FlaB, BmpA, and DbpB proteins, and the conserved N-terminal region of the serotype-defining OspC proteins. But there were strain-specific antibody responses to full-length OspC and to plasmid-encoded VlsE, BBK07, and BBK12 proteins. Sequencing of additional VlsE genes revealed substantial diversity within some pairs of strains but near-identical sequences within other pairs, which otherwise differed in their ospC alleles. The presence or absence of full-length bbk07 and bbk12 genes accounted for the differences in antibody responses. We propose that for B. burgdorferi, there is selection in reservoir species for (i) sequence diversity, as for OspC and VlsE, and (ii) the presence or absence of polymorphisms, as for BBK07 and BBK12. IMPORTANCE:Humans are dead-end hosts for Borrelia agents of Lyme disease (LD), and, thus, irrelevant for the pathogens' maintenance. Many reports of human cases and laboratory mouse infections exist, but less is known about infection and immunity in natural reservoirs, such as the rodent Peromyscus leucopus. We observed that high- and low-prevalence strains of Borrelia burgdorferi were capable of infecting P. leucopus but elicited different patterns of antibody responses. Antibody reactivities to the VlsE protein were as type-specific as previously characterized reactivities to serotype-defining OspC proteins. In addition, the low-prevalence strains lacked full-length genes for two proteins that (i) are encoded by a virulence-associated plasmid in some high-prevalence strains and (ii) LD patients and field-captured rodents commonly have antibodies to. Immune selection against these genes may have led to null phenotype lineages that can infect otherwise immune hosts but at the cost of reduced fitness and lower prevalence.
Project description:Borrelia mayonii is a newly described member of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex that is vectored by the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis Say) and a cause of Lyme disease in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Vertebrate reservoir hosts involved in the enzootic maintenance of B. mayonii have not yet been identified. Here, we describe the first isolation of B. mayonii from naturally infected white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus Rafinesque) and an American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus Erxleben) from Minnesota, thus implicating these species as potential reservoir hosts for this newly described spirochete.
Project description:The primary vector of Borrelia burgdorferi in North America, Ixodes scapularis, feeds on various mammalian, avian, and reptilian hosts. Several small mammal hosts; Peromyscus leucopus, Tamias striatus, Microtus pennsylvanicus, and Blarina spp. can serve as reservoirs in an enzootic cycle of Lyme disease. The primary reservoir in the northeast United States is the white-footed mouse, P. leucopus. The infection prevalence of this reservoir as well as the roles of potential secondary reservoirs has not been established in southern Maryland, a region of low to moderate Borrelia infection in humans. Intensive trapping at 96 locations throughout the western Coastal Plains of Maryland was conducted and we found that 31.6% of P. leucopus were infected with B. burgdorferi. Sequence and phylogenetic analysis revealed that only B. burgdorferi sensu stricto circulated in southern Maryland. Feral house mice and voles also were infected and may serve as secondary hosts. Peromyscus gender, age and month of capture were significantly associated with infection status. Larval I. scapularis were the dominant ectoparasite collected from captured rodents even though host seeking A. americanum and D. variabilis were collected in greater numbers across the sampling region. Our findings illustrate that the enzootic cycle of LD is maintained in the western Coastal Plains region of southern Maryland between I. scapularis and P. leucopus as the dominant reservoir.
Project description:Many pathogens, such as the agents of West Nile encephalitis and plague, are maintained in nature by animal reservoirs and transmitted to humans by arthropod vectors. Efforts to reduce disease incidence usually rely on vector control or immunization of humans. Lyme disease, for which no human vaccine is currently available, is a commonly reported vector-borne disease in North America and Europe. In a recently developed, ecological approach to disease prevention, we intervened in the natural cycle of the Lyme disease agent (Borrelia burgdorferi) by immunizing wild white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), a reservoir host species, with either a recombinant antigen of the pathogen, outer surface protein A, or a negative control antigen in a repeated field experiment with paired experimental and control grids stratified by site. Outer surface protein A vaccination significantly reduced the prevalence of B. burgdorferi in nymphal blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) collected at the sites the following year in both experiments. The magnitude of the vaccine's effect at a given site correlated with the tick infection prevalence found on the control grid, which in turn correlated with mouse density. These data, as well as differences in the population structures of B. burgdorferi in sympatric ticks and mice, indicated that nonmouse hosts contributed more to infecting ticks than previously expected. Thus, where nonmouse hosts play a large role in infection dynamics, vaccination should be directed at additional species.
Project description:Modification of a species range is one of many consequences of climate change and is driving the emergence of Lyme disease in eastern Canada. The primary reservoir host of the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), whose range is rapidly shifting north into southern Québec. The deer mouse, P. maniculatus, is occurring over most Québec province and is a less competent host for B. burgdorferi. Here, we compared the phylogeographic structure of both Peromyscus species in Québec. Using a combination of multiple mitochondrial DNA markers and phylogeographic methods, we detected an ongoing and rapid expansion of P. leucopus, while P. maniculatus appears more stable. Haplotype and populations networks indicated that populations of P. maniculatus exhibit more genetic structure than P. leucopus across the study area. Furthermore, significant and consistent genetic divergences between populations of the two species on both sides of the St. Lawrence River suggest that distinct lineages of P. leucopus and P. maniculatus with different ancestral origins colonized Southern Québec following the Last Glacial Maximum. The phylogeographic structure of pathogens is expected to mirror the structure observed in their reservoir hosts. As different strains of Borrelia burgdorferi may be associated with different levels of pathogenicity and immune responses of their hosts, our results are helpful at better understanding the pattern of spread of Lyme disease in a zone of emergence, and associated risk for human populations.
Project description:The spirochaete (Borrelia burgdorferi) associated with Lyme disease was detected in questing ticks and rodents during a period of 18 years, 1991-2009, at five locations on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) was collected at varied intervals between 1991 and 2009 and examined for B. burgdorferi. The white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), house mouse (Mus musculus) marsh rice rat (Oryzomys palustris), marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris), eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) and six-lined racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus) were live-trapped, and their tissues cultured to isolate spirochaetes. Borrelia burgdorferi isolates were obtained from questing adult I. scapularis and engorged I. scapularis removed from P. leucopus, O. palustris and S. floridanus. The prevalence of B. burgdorferi infection was variable at different times and sites ranging from 7 to 14% of examined questing I. scapularis. Mitochondrial (16S) rRNA gene phylogenetic analysis from 65 adult I. scapularis identified 12 haplotypes in two major clades. Nine haplotypes were associated with northern/Midwestern I. scapularis populations and three with southern I. scapularis populations. Sixteen isolates obtained from tick hosts in 2005 were confirmed to be B. burgdorferi by amplifying and sequencing of 16S rRNA and 5S-23S intergenic spacer fragments. The sequences had 98-99% identity to B. burgdorferi sensu stricto strains B31, JD1 and M11p. Taken together, these studies indicate that B. burgdorferi sensu stricto is endemic in questing I. scapularis and mammalian tick hosts on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Project description:The spirochetal agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted by bites of Ixodes ticks to mammalian reservoir hosts and humans. The mechanism(s) by which the organism is trafficked from vector to host is poorly understood. In this study, we demonstrate that a B. burgdorferi mutant strain deficient in the synthesis of the bba64 gene product was incapable of infecting mice via tick bite even though the mutant was (i) infectious in mice when introduced by needle inoculation, (ii) acquired by larval ticks feeding on infected mice, and (iii) able to persist through tick molting stages. This finding of a B. burgdorferi gene required for pathogen transfer and/or survival from the tick to the susceptible host represents an important breakthrough toward understanding transmission mechanisms involved for the Lyme disease agent.
Project description:Babesia microti and Borrelia burgdorferi, the respective causative agents of human babesiosis and Lyme disease, are maintained in their enzootic cycles by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and use the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) as primary reservoir host. The geographic range of both pathogens has expanded in the United States, but the spread of babesiosis has lagged behind that of Lyme disease. Several studies have estimated the basic reproduction number (R0) for B. microti to be below the threshold for persistence (<1), a finding that is inconsistent with the persistence and geographic expansion of this pathogen. We tested the hypothesis that host coinfection with B. burgdorferi increases the likelihood of B. microti transmission and establishment in new areas. We fed I. scapularis larva on P. leucopus mice that had been infected in the laboratory with B. microti and/or B. burgdorferi. We observed that coinfection in mice increases the frequency of B. microti infected ticks. To identify the ecological variables that would increase the probability of B. microti establishment in the field, we integrated our laboratory data with field data on tick burden and feeding activity in an R0 model. Our model predicts that high prevalence of B. burgdorferi infected mice lowers the ecological threshold for B. microti establishment, especially at sites where larval burden on P. leucopus is lower and where larvae feed simultaneously or soon after nymphs infect mice, when most of the transmission enhancement due to coinfection occurs. Our studies suggest that B. burgdorferi contributes to the emergence and expansion of B. microti and provides a model to predict the ecological factors that are sufficient for emergence of B. microti in the wild.
Project description:Lyme borreliosis, or Lyme disease (LD), is a tick-borne zoonotic infection of biomedical significance, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) spirochetes and transmitted by Ixodes species ticks. It usually circulates among wildlife vertebrate reservoirs and vector ticks but may infect humans, causing multisystem problems. In far western and northern North America, the host reservoirs, tick vectors, and genospecies of Borrelia are well known but not so in the southern U.S., where there is controversy as to the presence of "true" LD. Here we report the presence of the LD spirochete B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.) and Borrelia bissettii, three main reservoir hosts, and two enzootic tick vectors in the southeastern U.S. The two enzootic tick vectors, Ixodes affinis and Ixodes minor, rarely bite humans but are more important than the human biting "bridge" vector, Ixodes scapularis, in maintaining the enzootic spirochete cycle in nature. We also report extraordinary longevities and infections in the reservoir rodents Peromyscus gossypinus, Sigmodon hispidus, and Neotoma floridana.