To determine if Lyme disease had gained a foothold in the patchwork of forests, farms and prairies of Central Illinois, researchers trapped small mammals in Allerton Park, a 1,500-acre (600-hectare) natural area in Piatt County. They focused on four habitat types: young forest, mature forest, a flood plain and a 30-acre (12-hectare) patch of prairie surrounded by woods and agricultural fields.
The researchers removed deer ticks from the mammals they trapped and tested the ticks for Lyme disease.
They found that the immature forest and the prairie hosted the highest percentage of deer-tick-infested mammals, the highest number of ticks per mammal trapped and the highest rates of ticks infected with Lyme disease of the four habitat types evaluated.
"The highest prevalence of B. burgdorferi infection was found (in deer tick larvae) from the prairie (27 percent) followed by the young forest (15 percent), the mature forest (6 percent) and the flood plain (6 percent)," the researchers wrote.
"Interestingly, all of the positive ticks from the prairie were from prairie voles, not the typical white-footed mouse," Rydzewski said. There also were many more ticks per animal on the prairie voles than on the white-footed mice of the forest, she said.
This is the first study to report evidence that the prairie vole may potentially serve as a competent reservoir host for the Lyme disease bacterium, B. burgdorferi, said Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, a wildlife veterinary epidemiologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey who led the study with Rydzewski and natural resources and environmental sciences emeritus professor Richard Warner. (The Survey is a unit of the Prairie Research Institute at Illinois.)
"The fact that we f
|Contact: Diana Yates|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign