Evidence for host-genotype associations of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto

Samir Mechai, Gabriele Margos, Edward J. Feil, Nicole Barairo, L. Robbin Lindsay, Pascal Michel, Nicholas H. Ogden

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Different genotypes of the agent of Lyme disease in North America, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, show varying degrees of pathogenicity in humans. This variation in pathogenicity correlates with phylogeny and we have hypothesized that the different phylogenetic lineages in North America reflect adaptation to different host species. In this study, evidence for host species associations of B. burgdorferi genotypes was investigated using 41 B. burgdorferi-positive samples from five mammal species and 50 samples from host-seeking ticks collected during the course of field studies in four regions of Canada: Manitoba, northwestern Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. The B. burgdorferi genotypes in the samples were characterized using three established molecular markers (multi-locus sequence typing [MLST], 16S-23S rrs-rrlA intergenic spacer, and outer surface protein C sequence [ospC] major groups). Correspondence analysis and generalized linear mixed effect models revealed significant associations between B. burgdorferi genotypes and host species (in particular chipmunks, and white-footed mice and deer mice), supporting the hypotheses that host adaptation contributes to the phylogenetic structure and possibly the observed variation in pathogenicity in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0149345
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


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