Ecology

Urbanization and other anthropogenic factors can be implicated in the spread of the Lyme disease into the human population. In many areas, expansion of suburban neighborhoods has led to the gradual deforestation of surrounding wooded areas and increasing “border” contact between humans and tick-dense areas. Human expansion has also resulted in a gradual reduction of the predators that normally hunt deer as well as mice, chipmunks and other small rodents — the primary reservoirs for Lyme disease. As a consequence of increased human contact with host and vector, the likelihood of transmission to Lyme residents has greatly increased. Researchers are also investigating possible links between global warming and the spread of vector-borne diseases including Lyme disease.

The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis, the primary vector in the northeastern U.S.) has a two-year life cycle, first progressing from larva to nymph, and then from nymph to adult. The tick feeds only once at each stage. In the fall, large acorn forests attract deer as well as mice, chipmunks and other small rodents infected with B. burgdorferi. During the following spring, the ticks lay their eggs. The rodent population then “booms.” Tick eggs hatch into larvae, which feed on the rodents; thus the larvae acquire infection from the rodents. (Note: At this stage, it is proposed that tick infestation may be controlled using acaricides (miticide)).

Adult ticks may also transmit disease to humans. After feeding, female adult ticks lay their eggs on the ground, and the cycle is complete. On the west coast, Lyme disease is spread by the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus), which has a different life cycle.

The risk of acquiring Lyme disease does not depend on the existence of a local deer population, as is commonly assumed. New research suggests that eliminating deer from smaller areas (less than 2.5 ha or 6 acres) may in fact lead to an increase in tick density and the rise of “tick-borne disease hotspots”.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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