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Landscape and climate factors can predict the prevalence of Lyme disease bacteria

0 2 years ago

Predicting Lyme disease hotspots can help public health officials guide resources and proactive messaging to the public. But the ecology of the disease is complex, involving various host animals, black-legged ticks that serve as a disease vector, the disease-causing agent itself, the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, and the environment in which they all live.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, untangles the relationship between two of these players in Lyme disease ecology: bacteria and the environment. Led by Tam Tran, who earned her doctoral degree in Penn’s Department of Biology in the School of Arts & Sciences, and with mentors Dustin Brisson, a professor in the department, Shane Jensen of the Wharton School, along with colleagues from the New York State Department of Health, the research investigates how variables such as landscape disturbance and climate affect the distribution and abundance of B. burgdorferi. The result is a powerful analytical model that can predict with accuracy the prevalence and distribution of the Lyme disease bacteria on the landscape, potentially a useful public health tool to help mitigate disease transmission.

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