Borrelia burgdorferi has minimal impact on the Lyme disease reservoir host Peromyscus leucopus.
The epidemiology of vector-borne zoonotic diseases is determined by encounter rates between vectors and hosts. Alterations to the behavior of reservoir hosts caused by the infectious agent have the potential to dramatically alter disease transmission and human risk. We examined the effect of Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiological agent of Lyme disease, on one of its most important reservoir hosts, the white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus. We mimic natural infections in mice using the vector (Black-legged ticks, Ixodes scapularis) and examine the immunological and behavioral responses of mouse hosts. Despite producing antibodies against B. burgdorferi, infected mice did not have elevated white blood cells compared with uninfected mice. In addition, infected and uninfected mice did not differ in their wheel-running activity. Our results suggest that infection with the spirochete B. burgdorferi has little impact on the field activity of white-footed mice. Lyme disease transmission appears to be uncomplicated by pathogen-altered behavior of this reservoir host.
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