Detection of Borrelia burgdorferi DNA in museum specimens of Ixodes dammini ticks

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Science  21 Sep 1990:
Vol. 249, Issue 4975, pp. 1420-1423
DOI: 10.1126/science.2402635


In order to investigate the potential for Borrelia burgdorferi infection before the recognition of Lyme disease as a clinical entity, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to examine museum specimens of Ixodes dammini (deer ticks) for the presence of spirochete-specific DNA sequences. One hundred and thirty-six archival tick specimens were obtained representing various continental U.S. locations; DNA sequences characteristic of modern day isolates of B. burgdorferi were detected in 13 1940s specimens from Montauk Point and Hither Hills, Long Island, New York. Five archival specimens of Dermacentor variabilis (dog tick) from the same collection and 118 Ixodes specimens from other endemic and nonendemic sites were negative. These data suggest that the appearance of the Lyme disease spirochete in suitable arthropod vectors preceded, by at least a generation, the formal recognition of this disease as a clinical entity in the United States.

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