Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biodiversity May Reduce Lyme Disease

Date:
June 8, 2000
Source:
Society For Conservation Biology
Summary:
It's well-known that biodiversity makes ecosystems healthier. But new research shows that biodiversity may make people healthier too. People are less likely to get Lyme disease if they live in areas with a greater diversity of small mammals, according to the June issue of Conservation Biology.

It's well-known that biodiversity makes ecosystems healthier. But new research shows that biodiversity may make people healthier too. People are less likely to get Lyme disease if they live in areas with a greater diversity of small mammals, according to the June issue of Conservation Biology.

This is the first study showing that biodiversity may reduce the risk of disease in people.

"Our work addresses underlying ecological interactions that may cause large-scale variation in disease risk," says Richard Ostfeld of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, who collaborated with Felicia Keesing of Siena College in Loudonville, New York.

Caused by a spirochete bacterium, Lyme disease is transmitted by ixodid ticks. The disease can cause a characteristic skin rash, flu-like symptoms, arthritis and neurological damage. As many as 17,000 cases are reported to the CDC each year, making it the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S. Lyme disease is concentrated in the northeast, mid-Atlantic and upper midwest.

In part because the disease can be difficult to diagnose and a recently-approved vaccine is not completely effective, the best safeguard against Lyme disease is to avoid ticks. The ticks are born without the Lyme disease bacteria and can become infected during any of three stages (larva, nymph and adult), each of which takes a single blood meal from a host. The nymphs are the most dangerous to people both because they are most active during the summer when people are most likely to be outdoors and because they are hard to detect -- nymphs look like small freckles and are almost impossible to feel when they are crawling around on people's skin. Up to 40% of nymphs in a given area are infected with Lyme disease.

Many ticks never become infected because some hosts transmit the bacteria inefficiently. In North America, the host that transmits the bacteria most efficiently is the white-footed mouse.

Ostfeld and Keesing hypothesized that an area with more biodiversity would have a greater number of inefficient host species, which would mean fewer infected tick nymphs and thus fewer cases of Lyme disease in people. In a companion paper in press in the journal Ecology, Ostfeld and Kenneth Schmidt (of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York) used a computer model that varied the diversity of hosts and confirmed that as host diversity rose from one to 20 species, the nymph infection rate fell by about 75%.

These results are supported by the finding that the incidence of Lyme disease falls in East Coast areas with a greater diversity of small mammals.

The question then is how to decrease the relative abundance of white-footed mice, which are typically the most abundant vertebrate in forests in the eastern and central U.S. The researchers point out that white-footed mouse densities are often up to 50% in fragmented woodlots surrounded by agriculture or urban areas, presumably due to the absence of predators such as barred owls and bobcats and of competitors such as eastern chipmunks and fox squirrels. Ostfeld and Keesing suggest that decreasing the forests' fragmentation might also decrease the local incidence of Lyme disease.

Increased biodiversity could also reduce the risk of the many other vector-borne diseases, which include plague, West Nile encephalitis and leishmaniasis.

Related Web Site:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lymeprevent.htm


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society For Conservation Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society For Conservation Biology. "Biodiversity May Reduce Lyme Disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000608074403.htm>.
Society For Conservation Biology. (2000, June 8). Biodiversity May Reduce Lyme Disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000608074403.htm
Society For Conservation Biology. "Biodiversity May Reduce Lyme Disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/06/000608074403.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Peace Corps is one of several U.S.-based organizations to pull workers out of West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Health officials say 2,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. due to weather, but it's excessive heat and cold that claim the most lives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins