More than 50% of mice in Kentucky infected with Lyme bacteria



In their study, Buchholz and colleagues, from Western Kentucky University, found that more than half of the mice in Kentucky tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi. They also discovered that the prevalence of B. burgdorferi was higher in tissue than in blood – a finding consistent with other studies.

“Overall prevalence of B. burgdorferi in mammals examined by blood sampling was 21.8%, while prevalence in tissues was 63.5%,” writes Buchholz.

The prevalence rates of infected mammals was similar to those in other southeastern U.S. states. Studies in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina [2] have reported the prevalence to be 6.5% and 41.8%. Meanwhile, 25% to 37% of the small mammals in Virginia are infected with B. burgdorferi [3], according of Buchholz.

Kentucky has long been considered to be a non-endemic state, but Buchholz’s findings suggest that Kentucky residents may, in fact, be at a greater risk of contracting Lyme disease than initially thought.

“The presence of B. burgdorferi in rodent species in south-central Kentucky ostensibly poses a risk for B. burgdorferi to be vectored to and cause Lyme disease in humans,” writes Buchholz.

The numbers of human cases of Lyme disease in Kentucky was lower than expected based on the number of infected mammals. Buchholz explains that “one set of hypotheses suggests an anthropogenic cause such as under- and misreported cases, while the other set focuses on ecology.”

Nevertheless, the study documents that people in Kentucky are at risk of contracting Lyme disease.



  1. Buchholz MJ, Davis C, Rowland NS, Dick CW. Borrelia burgdorferi in small mammal reservoirs in Kentucky, a traditionally non-endemic state for Lyme disease. Parasitol Res. 2018.
  2. Oliver JH, Jr., Lin T, Gao L, et al. An enzootic transmission cycle of Lyme borreliosis spirochetes in the southeastern United States. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003;100(20):11642-11645.
  3. Sonenshine DE, Ratzlaff RE, Troyer J, et al. Borrelia burgdorferi in eastern Virginia: comparison between a coastal and inland locality. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1995;53(2):123-133.

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Gretchen BChristi WhiteDr. Daniel CameronVicki P.Graham Hickling, University of Tennessee Recent comment authors
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Gretchen B
Gretchen B

I am another resident of Kentucky that has been diagnosed with Lyme . Northern Kentucky. I am sure that ticks carrying tickborne diseases are just cruising through the Ohio River Valley, which basically runs from Pennsylvania to the Mississippi river. In my area I know of almost 40 people fighting lyme or ” after damage”. We have all had to go out of state for treatment.

Christi White
Christi White

My 7 yr old daughter was diagnosed with Lyme disease monday september 10th 2018. I live in Trigg county kentucky in a rural area by Lake Barkley. She has the bulls eye rash in 2 places. Tomorrow we go for lab testing in a county nearby. Me and my husband are so scared we don’t know where to take her to ensure she gets the best treatment available please any advice is welcome. Thank you to anyone with help or advice for reading my comment!

Graham Hickling, University of Tennessee
Graham Hickling, University of Tennessee

The mouse study was done entirely at WKU’s Green River Reserve, so it’s a bit of a stretch to extend the results to all of Kentucky. Nevertheless, the conclusion is probably correct: a new survey of blacklegged ticks off deer found Borrelia infection in many KY counties.

Vicki P.
Vicki P.

We have patients from all over KY contacting us, KY Lyme Disease Association, that have confirmed Lyme disease. Our LLMD’s are fed up with KY for not doing more. We have to send patients out of state because UofL and UK continue to teach their doctors that Lyme is NOT in KY. Our whole family has Lyme and up and down our road, people have Lyme. Doctors do not recognize symptoms here and our LLMD’s are getting flooded.