Interactions Between Lizards, Ticks, and Borrelia

photo of lizard

Wiley (Nowak, T.A., et al.) 06.03.2024, published a review article “Lizards and the enzootic cycle of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato.” In this review, researchers summarize the current evidence supporting the contribution of lizards to the circulation of Lyme borreliae. Evidence of lizards as potential reservoirs for B. burgdorferi s.l. (Bb), from field surveillance to laboratory research, is included. Though many lizard species are fed upon by Ixodes ticks, this taxa is among the least studied of the host vertebrates in how they may contribute to the transmission and life cycle maintenance of Lyme bacteria. It was found that most studies have focused on just a few species of lizards. 

Researchers also summarize the understanding of lizard immune responses that are divergent, and the potential immune escape mechanisms utilized by Bb spirochetes. Investigators provide perspective on potential enzootic cycles existing between lizard-tick-Borrelia interactions. They found that studies of various lizard species and their relationship with Bb species differed phylogenetically and geographically including, “Old-world” lizards and “New-world” lizards.

In “Old-world” lizards, found in Europe and North Africa, B. lusitaniae is the only Lyme species known to be transmitted between ticks and lizards. Current evidence suggests that these lizards serve as competent reservoirs in the B. lusitaniae maintenance cycle. This is in contrast to the role of “New-world” lizards found in North America. Current evidence suggests “New-world” lizard species are actually poor reservoir hosts to Lyme species, and may actually reduce this prevalence in nature.

Authors suggest that clarifying the role of lizards in nature may provide potential information for the development of public health strategies to control Bb expansion.

For More Information:

Read the Wiley Review Article

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