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Lyme disease tick adapts to life on the (fragmented) prairie
Date:6/21/2011

ound tick larvae feeding so prominently on prairie voles and those ticks were infected and hadn't had a chance to feed on anything else is a very strong indicator that we are dealing with a different reservoir of Lyme disease that deserves more attention," Mateus-Pinilla said.

The researchers hypothesize that when newly hatched ticks find themselves on the prairie, they latch on to the first small mammal that comes along, which in most cases is a prairie vole (white-footed mice prefer the forest). The abundance of prairie voles in the prairie is much lower than that of the white-footed mice in the forest, so more tick larvae and nymphs end up on the same few prairie voles. Since the number of ticks per animal is higher on the prairie, the likelihood of infection is higher there as well.

"The landscape of Illinois, especially the northern and central area, is very fragmented with agricultural and other development, so there aren't really big continuous areas that are forested," Rydzewski said. "And so maybe these ticks are finding new habitats to establish themselves in because of the lack of previous habitats."

"What's exciting about the new findings is that we are dealing with potentially new mechanisms of disease transmission that we just have not explored and perhaps we do not understand," Mateus-Pinilla said. "We need to think outside of what we already know about Lyme disease transmission."

The new study appears in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases.


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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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