How Long Does It Take For A

Tick To Transmit Lyme Disease?

Some claim it takes 24, 36, 48 or 72 hours before a tick can transmit the Lyme disease organism. This is not at all true, but it is repeated by those who don't or won't take time to research the topic any further.

Art Doherty (Lots of Links on Lyme Disease) once summarized the time it takes to transmit Lyme after reviewing various scientific resources. The times he noted were as follows:

"as soon as they bite"
three hours
a few hours
several hours
after only 6 hours
after 8 hours
many hours
12-24 hours
16-24 hours
18-49 hours
less than 24 hours
as early as 24 hours
at least 24 hours
24 hours
more than 24 hours
24-48 hours
36 hours
36-24 hours
36-48 hours
42 hours
48 hours/2 days
after 48 hours
72 hours 
greater than or equal to 72 hours
some days



See abstracts below for more information.

Disseminated Lyme disease after short-duration tick bite. Patmas MA, Remorca C. Journal of Spirochetal and Tickborne Diseases 1994; 1:77-78

Lyme disease, an Ixodes tick-borne spirochetal infection, has been the subject of much controversy. One problematic area has been the prophylactic treatment of deer-tick bites in endemic areas. Some have argued against routine antimicrobial prophylaxis based upon the belief that transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi is unlikely before 24-48 hours of tick attachment. Others have suggested that it is cost effective to administer prophylactic antibiotics against Lyme disease when embedded deer-tick bites occur in endemic areas.

Herein, a case of disseminated Lyme disease after only 6 hours of tick attachment is presented. The current recommendation against treatment of short-duration tick bites may need reconsideration, particularly in hyperendemic areas.


Phyllis Mervine of writes: "Patmas and Remora reported on a case of Lyme disease that was transmitted after only 6 hours of attachment by a deer tick. The authors concluded that, “The current recommendation against treatment of shortduration tick bites may need reconsideration.”(1994)" - See more at:


Preliminary studies on virus and spirochete accumulation in the cement plug of ixodid ticks. Alekseev AN, Burenkova LA, Vasilieva IS, Dubinina HV, Chunikhin SP.

Exp Appl Acarol 1996 Dec; 20(12): 713-23 PMID

"We provide evidence that tick-borne encephalitis virus and Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. are accumulated in the cement plug in the host skin within the first few hours after tick attachment. Extirpation of the tick without the cement plug, even very soon after the attachment, did not prevent the transmission by Ixodes ricinus, Ixodes persulcatus or Dermacentor reticulatus to mice. This was within 1 hour in the case of the TBE virus and after 20-22 h of attachment, in the case of Borrelia and I. persulcatus. The epidemiological significance of these findings is discussed."


Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in female cement plug of Ixodes persulcatus ticks (Acari, Ixodidae). Alekseev AN, Arumova EA, Vasilieva IS.

Exp Appl Acarol 1995 Sep; 19(9): 519-22

Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was detected in one out of five cement plugs of female Ixodes persulcatus ticks. The spirochetes were found by dark field microscopy as early as 18 h after attachment of the ticks to the skin of a white mouse.


European Lyme borreliosis: 231 culture-confirmed cases involving patients with erythema migrans. Strle F, Nelson JA, Ruzic Sabljic E, Cimperman J.

Clin Infect Dis 1996 Jul; 23(1): 61-5.

... [in 25] disease transmission occurred despite a tick attachment time of <24 hours. Recalled tick attachment time 34 (15%) Of <6 h 9 (4%) Of <24 h 16 (7%)

Of <48 h 9 (4%).


Accelerated transmission of Lyme disease spirochetes by partially fed vector ticks. Shih CM, Spielman A. J Clin Microbiol 1993 Nov; 31(11): 2878-81

Spirochete-infected nymphs that have previously been attached to a host for 1 day become infectious to other hosts within another day. ... We conclude that partially fed nymphal ticks transmit spirochetal infection more rapidly than do ticks that have never been attached to a host and that infected ticks become infectious before they molt.


Characterization of Borrelia burgdorferi isolated from different organs of Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in nature. Leuba Garcia S, Kramer MD, Wallich R, Gern L. Int J Med Microbiol Virol Parasitol Infect Dis 1994 Mar; 280(4): 468-75

Moreover, the presence of different B. burgdorferi phenotypes/genotypes in one tick is described for the first time. The findings may have bearings on the time of tick attachment required for spirochete transmission since borreliae are already present in the salivary glands of systemically infected ticks at the beginning of the blood meal and perhaps also on the diversity of B. burgdorferi phenotypes inoculated by these ticks.


The presence of Borrelia in the intestines and salivary glands of spontaneously infected adult Ixodes persulcatus Schulze ticks during bloodsucking. Moskvitina GG, Korenberg EI, Gorban' Lia. Med Parazitol Mosk 1995 Jul-Sep(3): 16-20

Borrelia were frequently found in the salivary glands of the unfed infected I. persulcatus. During the first two to three days of bloodsucking, neither the proportion of ticks with spirochetes in the salivary glands, nor the spirochete concentrations increase. Borrelia migration from the tick gut into the salivary glands during early bloodsucking is not a prerequisite for or even important for pathogen transmission with saliva.


The frequency of generalized infection in adult fasting ticks of the genus Ixodes in foci of borreliosis in Russiaand the USA. Moskvitina GG, Korenberg EI, Spielman A, Shchegoleva TV. Parazitologiia 1995 Sep-Oct; 29(5): 353-60 PMID: 8524615

However, the proportions of ticks with generalized infections differ considerably (12.9 +/- 4.8 in I. persulcatus compared with 2.4 +/- 4.8 in I. dammini; significance of difference t = 3.1). We did not reveal any definite increase in the proportion of ticks with borreliae in the salivary glands among ticks with high concentrations of microbial bodies in the gut.


Microb Pathog. 1993 Mar;14(3):187-201.

Vascular clearance of Borrelia burgdorferi in rats.

Galbe JL1, Guy E, Zapatero JM, Peerschke EI, Benach JL.

Radiolabeled Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiologic agent of Lyme disease, injected intravenously into rats are cleared from the vasculature within 1 h of injection. One low passage isolate showed trafficking between the circulation and possibly the vessel walls for the first 2 h after injection. All strains used were resistant to the effects of normal and heat-inactivated rat serum.

During the first 2 h after injection, B. burgdorferi can be visualized in, and recovered from, the platelet-rich plasma. B. burgdorferi can adhere to both human and rat platelets in in vitro assays, but an in vivo association with these cells was not apparent. Similarly, none of the strains of B. burgdorferi used induced platelet aggregation.

Removal from the circulation into the organs was measured in perfused rats by polymerase chain reaction and autoradiography and in non-perfused rats by organ cultures. These organisms invade organs (heart, kidneys, bladder, liver, spleen, brain) within 1-6 h after injection. Invasion of organs occurred in an apparent random manner; a large amount of radiolabel but no live organisms was excreted in the urine during the first 24 h, suggesting degradation of the inoculum.


J Infect Dis. 1990 Jun;161(6):1187-93.

Borrelia burgdorferi in the central nervous system: experimental and clinical evidence for early invasion.

Garcia-Monco JC1, Villar BF, Alen JC, Benach JL.

Author information


Intravenous injection into adult Lewis rats of live Borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochetal agent of Lyme disease, was followed by increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier. Permeability was measured by the ratio of 125I-labeled albumin in cerebrospinal fluid to that in blood. Permeability changes were dose-dependent, began 12 h after inoculation, and reversed within 1 week. Only live, intravenously inoculated organisms produced impairment of the blood-brain barrier.

A spirochetal strain-dependent effect was noted in that changes were more marked with a recent isolate than with a strain in long-term in vitro culture. Mild pleocytosis and spirochetes were noted in the cerebrospinal fluid of rats with increased blood-brain barrier permeability. This experimental evidence for early central nervous system invasion was pursued in studies of the human disease. Specific B. burgdorferi antigens could be detected in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with early Lyme disease by use of murine monoclonal antibodies as probes.

Lucy Barnes