Monday, April 27, 2009

RESEARCH NEWS: Climate Change Benefits Deer Ticks, Lyme Disease Projected to Get Worse

In a finding that suggests how global warming could impact infectious disease, scientists from Yale University, in collaboration with other institutions, have determined that climate impacts the severity of Lyme Disease by influencing the feeding patterns of deer ticks that carry and transmit it.

Deer ticks live for two years and have three stages of life – larval, nymphal and adult. They obtain one blood meal during each stage in order to survive. If the source of the first meal (a mouse, bird or other small animal) is infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease, the tick also becomes infected and passes it on to its next meal source – be it wildlife or human – in its second life stage as a nymph.

But, as the Yale team demonstrates, it’s the seasonal cycle of feeding for each stage of the tick’s life that determines the severity of infection in a given region. The researchers found that this cycle is heavily influenced by climate. In the moderate climate of the Northeastern United States, larval deer ticks feed in the late summer, long after the spring feeding of infected nymphs. This long gap between feeding times directly correlates to more cases of Lyme Disease reported in the Northeast, say the scientists.

“When there is a longer gap, the most persistent infections are more likely to survive,” explains Durland Fish, Professor of Epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health and corresponding author of the study. “These persistent bacterial strains cause more severe disease in humans, leading more people to seek medical attention and resulting in more case reports.”

But in the Midwest, where there are greater extremes of temperature, there is a shorter window of opportunity for tick feeding, and therefore a shorter gap between nymphal and larval feedings. Because of this, report the scientists, Midwestern wildlife and ticks are infected with less persistent strains, which correlates with fewer cases of Lyme Disease reported in the Midwest.

The clear implication of this research, say the researchers, is that, as the planet warms, the Upper Midwest could find itself in the same situation as the Northeast: longer gaps between nymphal and larval feeding, and therefore, stronger, more persistent strains of Lyme Disease.

“Other diseases, such as malaria, have been projected to expand in response to climate change,” explains project leader Maria Diuk-Wasser, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health and senior author, “But this is the first study to show how the severity of disease can also be related to climate.”

Source: ScienceDaily

1 comment:

Bosluis the Tick said...

Hi Tom

How are you doing? This is te way I control ticks in South Africa on various cattle and games species.

I hope it might mena something to you, as I would love to implement my strategies on tick control on deer

hope you are very well

take care Pierre