Spatiotemporal variation in a Lyme disease host and vector: black-legged ticks on white-footed mice

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2001 Summer;1(2):129-38. doi: 10.1089/153036601316977732.


We monitored population density of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), burdens of immature black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) on mice, and infection prevalence of host-seeking ticks on six forest plots in southeastern New York State from 1995 through 1999. Despite densities of mice that fluctuated two orders of magnitude, average larval and nymphal tick burdens per mouse remained remarkably constant. Spatial variability in mouse density and tick burdens was modest. The total number of larval and nymphal ticks that fed on the mouse population each year depended strongly on population density of mice; a steady increase was observed in both mouse density and total tick meals on mice from 1996 through 1999. The result was a steady increase in the infection prevalence of nymphal and adult ticks with the etiological agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, over this time. We suggest that fluctuations in population density of mice, combined with possible regulation of tick burdens on mice, may influence risk of human exposure to Lyme disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors / microbiology
  • Arachnid Vectors / physiology
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • Humans
  • Ixodes / microbiology*
  • Ixodes / physiology*
  • Lyme Disease / microbiology
  • Lyme Disease / parasitology
  • Lyme Disease / transmission
  • New York
  • Peromyscus / microbiology
  • Peromyscus / parasitology*
  • Peromyscus / physiology*
  • Population Density
  • Prevalence
  • Tick Infestations / epidemiology
  • Tick Infestations / transmission
  • Tick Infestations / veterinary
  • Time Factors