The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Human ecology of Lyme disease: establishing variability in exposure potential to tick populations

JOHN M. DARCY II1, GODEFROY DEVEVY2, ERIKA ARNOLD3, JAMIE MACKAY4, RALPH M. GARRUTO1 and DUSTIN BRISSON2.

1Department of Anthropology, State University of New York at Binghamton, 2Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, 3Department of Biology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 4Department of Biodiversity, Biosecurity & Conservation, University of Auckland

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Lyme disease is the most prevalent vector-borne disease in temperate North America and is emergent across much of temperate Eurasia. Disease occurs when humans get caught in the ecological chain that sustains transmission and reproduction of the spirochete bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi sl. Transmission to human beings occurs through an arthropod vector, the Ixodes (hard bodied) group of ticks. Infection of humans takes place after an infected tick has attached to a human host for a sustained blood meal of 24-48 hours. This is the only known route of infection to humans. Since diagnosis of Lyme disease remains elusive in many clinical settings, development of a reliable prediction algorithm for Lyme disease risk will be useful in designing public health strategies and clinical medicine. One such impediment to a reliable risk model is estimating human exposure to these arthropods. In the past for modeling purposes, tick densities have been uniformly assumed according to environmental conditions. We used an accepted tick dragging method to survey a wooded nature preserve used for recreation in southeastern Pennsylvania. Our findings indicate that tick densities are largely variable within a very small range over a three year period. This suggests that human exposure potential to infected tick populations in the same location changes over time. This variation is of particular importance for building reliable models, creating public health strategies and assessing disease risk.

Supported through: The Brisson Laboratory Department of Biology 326 Leidy Laboratory University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104

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