Borrelia burgdorferi is a spirochaete transmitted by ixodes ticks, with its main reservoir in wild rodents and deer. It has recently been suggested that B. burgdorferi ought to be further divided into several different species with differing geographic distributions and virulence to man and domestic animals. This might help explain the apparently different clinical features of infection in North America and Europe.

Infection is fairly common in some parts of Britain such as Cumbria and the New Forest. In North America it is mainly found in the Northeast USA. In North America the tick is believed to have a 2 year life cycle but in Europe the cycle may be 3 years.

There are no reports of dog-to-human transmission, so canine and feline infections should not be regarded as zoonotic.

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