This study deals with the ecology of Lyme borreliosis in Europe. The relationships between Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato spirochetes, Clethrionomys and Apodemus rodent reservoirs and the Ixodes ricinus tick vector were investigated during 16 consecutive months in an enzootic area in Switzerland. Cultivation of ear skin biopsies was used to isolate spirochetes from C. glareolus, A. sylvaticus, A. flavicollis and Glis glis. Borrelia infection was more frequently observed in Clethrionomys than in Apodemus. Tick xenodiagnosis was used to determine the infectivity of rodents. The infection rate in ticks fed on Clethrionomys was higher than that in ticks fed on Apodemus, but Apodemus yielded more infected ticks than Clethrionomys because of a better tick moulting success. Xenodiagnostic ticks were placed into BSK medium to obtain isolates. Isolates from rodents and rodent-feeding ticks were all identified as B. afzelii. The follow-up of the infectivity status of repeatedly recaptured rodents clearly demonstrated that these hosts remained infective for ticks during winter till the following spring. Comparing C. glareolus and A. sylvaticus, each rodent species showed different host infection, different host infectivity and contributed differently to the moulting success of feeding ticks. These factors influence differentially the pattern of transmission of B. afzelii from Clethrionomys voles and Apodemus mice to I. ricinus ticks.
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