Ticks were screened for spirochetes and serum samples from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were assayed for antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi during 1983–1984. Using fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled rabbit antibodies produced to B. burgdorferi, the etiologic agent of Lyme disease, spirochetes were detected in Ixodes dammini (10.5% of 1,193) and Dermacentor albipictus (0.6% of 157) adults from Connecticut, I. dammini nymphs (49.1% of 108) and adults (64.7% of 99) from Armonk, New York, and in I. scapularis (0.4% of 531) and Amblyomma americanum (3.5% of 173) adults from North Carolina. Infected ticks were either seeking hosts or feeding on deer during the summer and fall. Direct fluorescent antibody staining also revealed spirochetes in two larvae of I. scapularis that emerged from eggs deposited by separate females in the laboratory. Using indirect immunofluorescence tests, antibodies to B. burgdorferi were identified in white-tailed deer living in tick-infested areas of all three states. Aside from minor cross-reactivity, there was no serologic evidence of Treponema or Leptospira infections. Ixodes dammini is a primary vector of B. burgdorferi in northeastern United States, but in North Carolina, other ixodid ticks may transmit this spirochete to humans and wildlife.

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Author notes

1

Department of Entomology, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, P.O. Box 1106, New Haven, Connecticut 06504, USA

2

Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, P.O. Box 7613, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, USA

3

Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University, Bronx, New York 10458, USA

4

Department of Microbiology, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA

5

Centers for Disease Control, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA