Chipmunks and Shrews Big Carriers of Lyme Disease
Issue date: 12/4/07 Section: News
News Brief: Bio prof. sheds light on Lyme disease
Recent research by Penn biology professor Dustin Brisson suggests that chipmunks and two shrew species account for nearly three-quarters of carriers of ticks infected with Lyme disease.
The widely held belief was that mice were the main animal carriers of the disease.
The research was conducted in Hudson Valley with Daniel Dykhuizen of Stony Brook University and Richard Ostfeld of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
In a University press release Brisson said, "The majority of zoonotic diseases, those that can be transmitted from wild or domestic animals to humans, are generally assumed to have one natural animal host."
Though deer are often associated with transmitting Lyme-disease infected ticks to humans, the insects are rarely infected with the bacteria from the deer's blood.
Rather, ticks harbor the disease after they first drink the blood of a vertebrate, which Brisson's research shows is often from chipmunks and shrews in addition to mice.
Mice were originally thought to be the primary carriers because nearly 90 percent of ticks feeding on an infected mouse contract the disease.
My thanks to Alissa Eisenberg for this very terse and yet brilliant summary of fascinating research posted in the Daily Pennsyvanian Web Site.