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Lyme and Lizards: Florida and Carolinas

Spirochetes are found in surprising numbers in a wide range of lizards in each state. Lizards are not typically thought to be associated with Borellia burgdorferi in any meaningful manner, so this study is quite surprising, and shows no one has all the answers on this profoundly adaptable bacteria. The conclusion of this interesting study is that:

B. burgdorferi DNA was identified in 86 of 160 (54%) lizards representing nine species and six genera. The high infection prevalence and broad distribution of infection among different lizard species at different sites and at different times of the year suggest that LB spirochetes are established in lizards in the southeastern United States.

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Molecular identification and analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in lizards in the southeastern United States.

Department of Public Health, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL 32224, USA.

Lyme borreliosis (LB) group spirochetes, collectively known as Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, are distributed worldwide. Wild rodents are acknowledged as the most important reservoir hosts. Ixodes scapularis is the primary vector of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in the eastern United States, and in the southeastern United States, the larvae and nymphs mostly parasitize certain species of lizards. The primary aim of the present study was to determine whether wild lizards in the southeastern United States are naturally infected with Lyme borreliae. Blood samples obtained from lizards in Florida and South Carolina were tested for the presence of LB spirochetes primarily by using B. burgdorferi sensu lato-specific PCR assays that amplify portions of the flagellin (flaB), outer surface protein A (ospA), and 66-kDa protein (p66) genes. Attempts to isolate spirochetes from a small number of PCR-positive lizards failed. However, PCR amplification and sequence analysis of partial flaB, ospA, and p66 gene fragments confirmed numerous strains of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, including Borrelia andersonii, Borrelia bissettii, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, in blood from lizards from both states. B. burgdorferi sensu lato DNA was identified in 86 of 160 (54%) lizards representing nine species and six genera. The high infection prevalence and broad distribution of infection among different lizard species at different sites and at different times of the year suggest that LB spirochetes are established in lizards in the southeastern United States.

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 May;71(5):2616-25

Clark K, Hendricks A, Burge D.

PMID: 15870353 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]



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