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University of Pennsylvania study reveals inconspicuous hosts in the Lyme disease epidemic
Date:11/29/2007

ing on an infected mouse contract the disease, nearly twice as much as any other species. In addition, mice are common, conspicuous and easy to research in the field and in the lab, promoting their status as primary natural reservoir. Yet other factors, such as population densities and tick burdens of other disease-carrying species, led investigators to rethink mice as the principal reservoir species for the disease.

The team employed genetic and ecological data, including dynamics of an outer surface protein of Lyme disease that provides clues about how the disease was transmitted, to discover that mice feed only 10 percent of all ticks and 25 percent of B. burgdorferi-infected ticks in the northeastern Lyme disease endemic zone. Shrews feed 35 percent of all ticks and 55 percent of infected ticks.

Emerging zoonotic pathogens, the 132 infectious diseases that cross the line between animal and human species, like Lyme disease, are a constant threat to world health. The research team, focused on improving existing strategies to protect the public health, is promoting the notion that targeting a single host species, in this case the white-footed mouse, may have been a faulty assumption.

While public-health strategies to control Lyme disease in North America have focused on interrupting transmission between blacklegged ticks and white-footed mice, Lyme disease infects more than a dozen vertebrate species, any of which can infect feeding ticks and increase human Lyme disease risk.


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Contact: Jordan Reese
jreese@pobox.upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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