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Reactivation of Borrelia infection in birds


Birds often carry ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato 1 — the spirochaete that causes Lyme disease — but their role as possible hosts and amplifiers for this illness has long been discounted. We find, however, that migratory birds are able to carry Lyme disease as a latent infection for several months, and that this infection can be reactivated and passed on to ticks as a result of migratory restlessness. Our results indicate that migratory birds may be efficient long-distance carriers of this pathogen.

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Figure 1: The redwing thrush (Turdus iliacus), a common migratory bird that is often infested with ticks, can carry Lyme disease as a latent infection for several months.


Figure 2: Borrelia garinii infection in redwing thrushes.

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Correspondence to Björn Olsen.

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Gylfe, Å., Bergström, S., Lundstróm, J. et al. Reactivation of Borrelia infection in birds. Nature 403, 724–725 (2000).

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