Lyme Disease Prevalence & Mice
White-footed mice are the principal natural reservoirs for Lyme disease bacteria. Ticks that feed on mice are highly likely to become infected, making them capable of transmitting Lyme disease to people during their next blood meal. When they feed on mice during their larval and nymphal stages, ticks are more likely to survive and molt. Ticks that feed other vertebrate host species have a comparatively lower survivorship. Consequently, we have hypothesized that the greater the abundance of mice during the midsummer peak in larval tick feeding activity, the greater the probability that questing larval ticks will encounter a mouse, and the higher the probability that they will molt into an infected nymph capable of transmitting Lyme bacteria one year later.
Our long-term monitoring of mouse abundance, tick abundance and infection prevalence in southeastern New York State supports these hypotheses. In addition, because we have demonstrated a correlation between acorn production and mouse abundance the following year, we have hypothesized that acorn abundance is a good predictor of abundance and infections prevalence of ticks almost two years in advance. This hypothesis also is supported by our monitoring data.
Preventing Tick Bites And Lyme Disease
There’s currently no Lyme disease vaccine available for humans. However, there are clinical trials taking place in Europe and the U.S.
The best way to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases is to prevent tick bites. Check your provincial public health authority to find out where infected ticks are most likely to be found.
- Wear light coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants to spot ticks easily.
- Tuck your shirt into your pants, and your pants into your socks.
- Wear closed-toe shoes.
- Apply insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin to clothing and exposed skin .
- Wear permethrin-treated clothing .
- Walk on cleared paths or trails.
- Keep children and pets from wandering off paths.
- Avoid using trails created by animals , as ticks are often found on the grass and plants along these trails.
Do a check for ticks on yourself and your:
- Outdoor gear, such as backpacks
- Shower or bathe as soon as possible, as it can help you find unattached ticks. If you don’t shower or bathe, do a full-body tick check on yourself and your children.
- If you find an attached tick, remove it as soon as possible.
- To kill unattached ticks on your clothing, put dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes. If your clothes are damp, you may need to dry them for longer.
- If you wash your clothes, use hot water and dry on high heat. Ticks can survive a cold/warm wash cycle.
What Is Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This spiral shaped bacterium is most commonly spread by a tick bite. The disease takes its name from Lyme, Connecticut. This is where the illness was first identified in the United States in 1975.
Although Lyme disease is a year-round problem, April through October is considered tick season. Cases of Lyme disease have been reported in nearly all states in the U.S. and in large areas in Europe and Asia, but the most common areas are the Northeast, upper Midwest and northwestern states.
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What Should You Do If You Find A Tick
Don’t touch the tick with your bare hand.
Use a pair of tweezers to remove the tick. Grab the tick firmly by its mouth or head as close to your skin as possible.
Pull up slowly and steadily without twisting until it lets go. Don’t squeeze the tick, and don’t use petroleum jelly, solvents, knives, or a lit match to kill the tick.
Save the tick. Place it in a plastic container or bag so it can be tested for disease, if needed.
Wash the bite area well with soap and water and put an antiseptic lotion or cream on the site.
The History Of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease gets its name from the town in Connecticut where symptoms of the disease were documented and studied in the 1970s. However, this is only one small part of the story of Lyme disease in the U.S. and beyond. In this article, learn about the history of Lyme disease, from pre-historic times to todays increase in cases due to climate change and other factors.
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Lyme Disease: Where Did The Spirochete Come From And How Does It Live Around Here
If the spirochete was not created in a lab, where did it come from and how does it live around here?
Researchers studying a 5,000-year-old man preserved in an Alpine glacier, recently found genetic evidence suggesting that he had Lyme disease. So it’s been around for a long time, and was probably in the U.S. for decades or centuries before it was identified, said Kirby C. Stafford III, chief entomologist and tick expert at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.
Native Americans and early colonists probably had Lyme disease, but the infection virtually disappeared as forests were cleared and white-tailed deer were “hunted out,” Stafford said.
People began to notice the disease when they started to encroach on areas occupied by ticks, the CDC contends.
In 1981, Willy Burgdorfer, a microbiologist at the National Institutes of Health, isolated the bacterium and by 1982 he managed to culture it. The bacterium was named Borrelia burgdorferi in his honor.
The Borrelia family of bacteria consists of spirochetes, spiral bacteria that have a retractable filament that allows them to swim through thick liquids, like blood.
Spirochetes sometimes modify their shape to cope with environmental hazards. Consequently, Borrelia burgdorferi, may sometimes appear as a ambiguous blob.
The most infamous of the Borrelia clan is Treponema pallidium, better known as the venereal disease syphilis.
History Of Lyme Disease
Ticks and Lyme disease have been around for thousands of years. In fact, a recent autopsy on a 5,300-year-old mummy indicated the presence of the bacteria which causes Lyme disease. A German physician, Alfred Buchwald, first described the chronic skin rash, or erythema migrans, of what is now known to be Lyme disease more than 130 years ago. However, Lyme disease was only recognized in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. And the bacteria that causes itBorrelia burgdorferiwasnt officially classified until 1981.
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How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed
Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose because symptoms are not consistent and may mimic other conditions. The primary symptom is a rash, but it may not be present in up to 20% of cases.
Diagnosis for Lyme disease must be made by a healthcare provider experienced in recognizing Lyme disease. Diagnosis is usually based on symptoms and a history of a tick bite. Testing is generally done to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions. This may need blood and other lab tests.
Research is underway to develop and improve methods for diagnosing Lyme disease.
The symptoms of Lyme disease may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Lyme Disease Bacterium Came From Europe Before Ice Age
- Wellcome Trust
- The bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, originated in America, or so researchers thought. Now, however, scientists has shown that this bug in fact came from Europe, originating from before the Ice Age.
Researchers at the University of Bath have discovered that a bacterium that causes Lyme disease originated in Europe, rather than in North America as previously thought.
The bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, originated in America, or so researchers thought. Now, however, a team from the University of Bath has shown that this bug in fact came from Europe, originating from before the Ice Age.
In the study, researchers from the University of Bath and colleagues from the UK and USA studied the evolutionary history of the bacteria by looking at the sequences of eight so-called ‘housekeeping genes’, which evolve very slowly. They analysed 64 different samples taken from infected humans and ticks in Europe and America.
In all, 33 different combinations of the housekeeping genes were found. The study’s findings appear to show that Borrelia burgdorferi originated in Europe but that the species has been present in North America for a long time. The researchers suggest its re-emergence there in the 1970s occurred after the geographic territory of the tick that carries the bacteria expanded, for example through the restoration of woodland.
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Can Lyme Disease Be Treated
Yes. People treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely. Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. People with certain neurological or cardiac forms of illness may require intravenous treatment with antibiotics such as ceftriaxone or penicillin. For additional information, please consult the CDC webpage at .
Other Species Of Borrelia Discovered
Species of Borrelia that are known to cause Lyme disease are collectively called Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. However, this broad classification includes many species and strains of disease-causing bacteria, which vary geographically and by the types of ticks that carry them.
Until recently, scientists recognized only three main species of Lyme-causing Borrelia:
- afzelii Named after the Swedish dermatologist who discovered the bulls eye rash and its connection to tick bites, this is a species of Borrelia that causes Lyme disease in Europe and Asia
- garinii Another species of Borrelia common in Eurasia
- burgderfori sensu stricto As mentioned above, this species was discovered in 1982 and is predominant in North America, but is also present in Europe
However, to date, at least thirteen distinct genomic classifications of Lyme-causing Borrelia have been discovered worldwide, some of which are continent- or country-specific. In North America, for example, several cases of Lyme have been caused not by B. burgdorferi but by the separate species B. mayonii. This is not to mention the totally separate group of species of Borrelia that cause a distinct type of Borreliosis, known as Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever , that present with Lyme-like symptoms.
Common Lyme and TBRF Borrelia Species*
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A Complex Path To Humans
Ironically, the deer that helped the tick population grow and spread do not become infected with the Lyme disease bacterium and cannot cause infection in ticks. But, birds and small mammals, particularly the abundant white-footed mouse, can carry the bacteria and infect immature ticks that feed on them. Infected larvae turn into infected nymphs, the source of infection for larger animals and humans.
Adult ticks hitchhike a ride on the deer, where they mate and feed on the deers blood. When they are done, the female then drops off into the leaf litter where deer travel and lays her eggs. Each deer can support hundreds of ticks, and each female tick lays about 2,000 eggs.
Once new tick populations are established by deer that carry them into new areas, infected ticks cause infection in mice, birds and other small mammals. New populations of deer ticks rapidly become infected with the Lyme disease bacterium as soon as they are established.
Did Lyme Disease Originate Out Of Plum Island
Many in the Lyme disease community and so-called conspiracy theorists have been making this claim for a long time. While no surprise, the Department of Homeland Security has unequivocally denied it. On their web site About Plum Island Animal Disease Center , they state the PIADC does not and has not performed research on Lyme disease.
Public domain photo/Keith Weller
What is Plum Island Animal Disease Center?
According to their web site, The Plum Island Animal Disease Center is a Biosafety Level 3 facility designed and constructed to work with the most dangerous animal diseases in the world, such as foot-and-mouth disease , Rinderpest, and African swine fever. In fact, by federal law, Plum Island is the only place in the U.S. where FMD and Rinderpest viruses can be studied.
Located about off the tip of Long Island, New York, it was opened in 1954 during the Cold War with a goal of protecting livestock from animal diseases.
Some say it was opened under Project Paperclip. This was a top-secret government program to recruit Nazi scientists who were working on animal diseases during WWII. It has been suspected that more than 2000 scientists were brought here and offered employment contracts and US citizenship. One of the areas of expertise they had was experiments with disease-infected ticks.
Plum Island is coincidentally within miles of the place where Lyme disease originated, the epicenter of Lyme, Connecticut.
Is Lyme disease considered a biowarfare agent?
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The Infectious Agent: B Burgdorferi
In 1982, Burgdorfer and colleagues isolated the infectious agent that causes Lyme disease that now bears his name: Borrelia burgdorferi . The genus Borrelia is a member of the family Spirochaetacaea, also known as spirochetes, which are Gram-negative bacterium characterized by a wavelike body and flagella . Burgdorfer and colleagues collected and dissected hundreds of Ixodes ticks from Shelter Island, New York and found that most of them contained spirochetes, specifically in the mid gut region. They further characterized the spirochetes with dark field and electron microscopy. Finally, indirect immunofluorescence revealed that antibodies extracted from serum of Lyme disease-infected patients reacted positively with the spirochete, while serum from control patients did not thereby confirming the link between the tick-derived spirochete and Lyme disease. In the United States, Lyme disease is primarily caused by the spirochete Borrelia Burgdorferi sensu stricto. Other related genospecies of Borrelia such as B. garinii, and B. afzelii have been identified in Europe and Asia.
Conspiracy Theory Vs Facts
Some have overanalyzed that Lyme disease spirochetes were first found in ticks from Shelter Island, so near Plum Island, an isolated facility used as a military research lab until 1954.
But it was just a coincidence that Benachs Shelter Island ticks were the ones in which Burgdorfer made his serendipitous finding. By 1984, once researchers knew what to look for, Lyme disease spirochetes were found in ticks from coastal Connecticut, New Jersey and even California.
But lets pretend the military started working immediately on the newly found agent of Lyme disease in 1981. Thats long after Fort Terry on Plum Island was repurposed in 1954 by the Agriculture Department to study exotic animal diseases. Its also after President Richard Nixon outlawed biowarfare research in 1969. If the bacteria was manipulated, it had to have been done after 1981 so the conspiracy theorys timeline just doesnt work.
The real nail in the coffin for the idea that Lyme disease in the United States was somehow accidentally released from military bioweapons research is that the first American case of Lyme disease turns out not to have been from Old Lyme, Conn., in the early 1970s. In 1969, a physician identified a case in Spooner, Wis., in a patient who had never traveled out of that area. And Lyme disease was found infecting people in 1978 in Northern California.
How could an accidental release take place over three distant locations? It couldnt.
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Lyme Disease Continues To Expand
The rate of Lyme disease spread has been slow compared to mosquito-borne West Nile virus, yet the current epidemic of Lyme disease is steadily increasing. It is estimated to be spreading 30 kilometers per year.
There has been little effort to try to limit the geographic spread of infected ticks. Most control efforts have been focused on managing tick populations where they are already established. Efforts have so far have included areainsecticide application, bait stations to treat mice or deer with insecticide and vaccinating mice against the bacterium. All of these methods have had limited success in reducing Lyme disease risk, but none have been employed to limit spread.
From an ecology perspective, the question is not why there are so many ticks, but why arent there more. At least 90% of each tick stage disappears over a single generation and we do not understand what happens to them. How many starve to death before finding a host? How many find hosts, but get removed by grooming before they can feed? How many are eaten by other animals or die from parasites? How does weather affect mortality?
Basic research on tick ecology pales in comparison to that conducted on the bacterium and patients. If we knew what limits tick population growth in nature, we might have better insight on how to manage their spread. For now, Lyme disease will continue to expand unabated.
Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented
People aren’t able to become immune to Lyme disease. So even if you’ve had Lyme disease, you can get it again. No vaccine is available currently to prevent the disease.
The FDA approved a Lyme vaccine called LYMErix in 1998. The vaccine was not 100% effective, however. The FDA still recommended preventing the disease in other ways. In 2002, the company that made LYMErix said it would no longer offer the vaccine.
To help prevent Lyme disease, follow these guidelines.
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Lyme And Ancient History
In 2017, a team at the Yale School of Public Health studied the history of Lyme disease in North America by analyzing the DNA of the Lyme disease bacterium a group of species of spiral-shaped bacteria, or spirochetes, known as Borrelia.
The Yale researchers sequenced the full genomes of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto taken from deer ticks. They read all one million letters of this full Lyme bacterial genome, allowing them to trace its presence back at least 60,000 years. That means the Lyme bacterium has been circulating North America since long before humans even arrived on the continent.
The researchers concluded that the bacterium most likely spread from the northeast U.S. to the south and west to California. This confirms that in the U.S. today, Lyme disease is not limited to New England but is in fact present in all 50 states.
Pre-20th century: Lyme in colonial AmericaIn North America, the history of Lyme disease and humans dates back at least to the colonial period. Colonists and visitors to North America in the 17th and 18th centuries wrote about the prevalence of ticks in forested areas of the Northeast as well as people suffering Lyme-like symptoms.
In fact, these accounts coupled with the Yale research above suggest that Lyme did not emerge through evolutionary processes, but rather changed and spread geographically due to ecological changes starting around that time.
This bacterium was later named Borrelia burgdorferi in Burgdorfers honor.