Lyme Disease Association of Australia

Lyme Disease Transmission

The purpose of this page is to provide a short overview of scientific research available that discusses transmission of Lyme disease.

Modes other than Ticks

Scientific studies support potential alternate modes of transmission; however these potential transmission sources have not been fully researched. A small selection of available research is offered below.

Blood-sucking insects, such as mosquitoes, flies, fleas and mites

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Transplacental transmission

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Contact with urine and other bodily fluids from infected animals

The potential for humans to contract Lyme disease via an infected mammal is an area that has yet to be fully researched, however remains of concern to the LDAA and Lyme patients.

  • There is ample evidence of Borrelia in mammals reported in Australian and overseas research:
  • Transmission of Borrelia from animals to humans could theoretically occur via exposure to their urine, blood, semen, colostrums or synovial fluid, as detailed below.
    • The LDAA Australian patient report (2012), page 12, Table 2 and page 14, Table 4 included respondents nominating other suspected modes of transmission via animals including, urine, saliva and milk.
    • Live Borrelia burgdorferi was isolated in the blood and urine of white-footed mice. The authors reported that "Spirochetes remained viable for 18-24 hours in urine." Bosler EM & Schulze TL. 1986, The prevalence and significance of Borrelia burgdorferi in the urine of feral reservoir hostsZentralbl Bakteriol Mikroboil Hyg A., Dec; 263(1-2): 40-44.
    • Borrelia burgdorferi was isolated in the blood of a dog three and four weeks post infection. Cerri D, Farina R, Andreani E, Nuvoloni R, Pedrini A & Cardini G. 1994, Experimental infection of dogs with Borrelia burgdorferi, Res Vet Sci, 57(2): 256-258.
    • Horse and cow blood, cow colostrums, cow urine and cow synovial fluids found to be Borrelia burgdorferi culture positive. Burgess EC. 1998, Borrelia burgdorferi infection in Wisconsin horses and cows, Ann N Y Acad Sci, 539:235-243.
  • The West Australian Lyme Association's submission in response to the DoH Scoping Study on Lyme Disease explores the potential role of livestock and their reproductive products in transporting (and possibly transmitting) Lyme disease, including:
    • Limited screening of imported livestock through quarantine process (Pages 5-6).
    • Screening process in interstate transport of livestock is not always adequate (Page 6).
    • Potential for Borrelia to survive in imported frozen semen and ova (P 9-10). Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes were found to have a mean viability of 90%+ after being frozen at minus-196 Celsius for 12 weeks. ‘Viability of Borrelia burgdorferi in Stored Semen’, Kumi-Diaka, J. and Harris, O, (1995) British Veterinary Journal, Mar/Apr 1995. v. 151 (2)
    • Lack of facilities in Australia to test livestock suspected of infection with Lyme disease (Page 11).
  • The submission can be found here.
  • An extensive collection of research regarding the role of mammals and birds in the transmission cycle of Lyme disease has been compiled on the website of Australian researcher (and Lyme patient), Karen Smith.

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Transmission via blood, tissue and organ donations

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Sexual transmission

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