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UC Berkeley: Study IDs key birds that host Lyme disease bacteria in California

[ CanLyme note: Western Canadian ticks often come from migratory birds from California and other western states. Borrelia bissettii was found in the province of British Columbia well over a decade ago, yet there is still no human test that properly tests for it and many other Borrelia genotypes known to occur. Patients in Canada are regularly told they don’t have Lyme disease based upon a poor test that is incapable of detecting the diversity within the genus Borrelia known to occur.]

By Sarah Yang, February 25, 2015

BERKELEY – Birds are more important than previously recognized as hosts for Lyme disease-causing bacteria in California, according to a new study led by UC Berkeley researchers.

The findings, published today (Wednesday, Feb. 25) in the journalPLOS ONE, shine a light on an important new reservoir in the western United States for the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, responsible for Lyme disease. Wood rats, western gray squirrels and other small mammals have been identified in previous studies as wildlife hosts of the Lyme disease spirochete bacterium in California, but fewer studies have looked at the role of birds as reservoirs.

“The role of birds in the maintenance of Lyme disease bacteria in California is poorly understood,” said study lead author Erica Newman, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. student in the Energy and Resources Group and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “This is the most extensive study of the role of birds in Lyme disease ecology in the western United States, and the first to consider the diversity of bird species, their behaviors and their habitats in identifying which birds are truly the most important as carriers.”

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