White-Footed Mouse May Spread Lyme Disease

162017_132140396847214_292624_nIt is well known that the “deer tick” (blacklegged tick) can be a carrier of the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and that deer are known hosts of adult deer ticks. However, the question has been posed as to why there has been a rise in the prevalence of Lyme disease in areas where the deer population has decreased. In their quest to answer the question, researchers began looking for other hosts of the ticks that carry the Lyme disease bacterium.

Researchers now believe that the common white-footed mouse is the main host of blacklegged ticks that carry the Lyme disease bacterium. White-footed mice host immature deer ticks and they thrive in areas even where human activities have reduced or changed their natural habitats. Researchers have found that the white-footed mouse is especially efficient at passing the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium that causes Lyme disease, from one generation of ticks to the next generation of ticks. In one study from 2012, researchers found that the incidence of Lyme disease in an area was related to the population of red foxes in the area – when the number of red foxes, which eat the white-footed mice, declined, the incidence of Lyme disease was prevalent.


The Danger That Forest Fragments Pose For The Spread Of Lyme Disease

Areas of patchy woods that are very common in cities, in suburban areas, and in rural areas may have higher populations of Lyme-disease carrying ticks because some species, like white-footed mice that are the favorite meal for blacklegged ticks, thrive in smaller places (biodiversity decreases and there are fewer predators and competitors of white-footed mice in these smaller places, leading to greater populations of mice, greater population of blacklegged ticks, and the increased incidence of Lyme disease).

White-footed mice are more abundant in forest fragments in some parts of the country and are particularly abundant in patches smaller than about five acres. Researchers have found that the white-footed mouse is the main host of the Lyme disease-causing bacterium. In the eastern and central United States, Lyme disease is concentrated in areas where people live near forests in which blacklegged ticks feed on infected mice, then transmit the bacterium when the ticks bite people.

Researchers have found that smaller forest fragments have more infected ticks which may result in more Lyme disease. Forest patches that were smaller than three acres had an average of three times as many ticks as did larger fragments, and seven times more infected ticks. As many as 80% of the ticks in the smallest patches were infected and they may also be infected with other emerging diseases, including Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Powassan encephalitis. The researchers believe that forest fragmentation may also be contributing to other serious illnesses.

One of the researchers stated, “Our results suggest that efforts to reduce the risk of Lyme disease should be directed toward decreasing fragmentation of deciduous forests of the northeastern United States, particularly in areas with a high incidence of Lyme disease. The creation of forest fragments smaller than five acres should especially be avoided.”


If you or a loved one may have been misdiagnosed or late-diagnosed with Lyme disease, you may be entitled to compensation if you suffered injuries or other harms as a result of medical negligence.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013 at 9:16 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


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