Reductions in human Lyme disease risk due to the effects of oral vaccination on tick-to-mouse and mouse-to-tick transmission

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2013 Apr;13(4):203-14. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2012.1003. Epub 2013 Feb 21.


Vaccinating wildlife is becoming an increasingly popular method to reduce human disease risks from pathogens such as Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. To successfully limit human disease risk, vaccines targeting the wildlife reservoirs of B. burgdorferi must be easily distributable and must effectively reduce pathogen transmission from infected animals, given that many animals in nature will be infected prior to vaccination. We assessed the efficacy of an easily distributable oral bait vaccine based on the immunogenic outer surface protein A (OspA) to protect uninfected mice from infection and to reduce transmission from previously infected white-footed mice, an important reservoir host of B. burgdorferi. Oral vaccination of white-footed mice effectively reduces transmission of B. burgdorferi at both critical stages of the Lyme disease transmission cycle. First, oral vaccination of uninfected white-footed mice elicits an immune response that protects mice from B. burgdorferi infection. Second, oral vaccination of previously infected mice significantly reduces the transmission of B. burgdorferi to feeding ticks despite a statistically nonsignificant immune response. We used the estimates of pathogen transmission to and from vaccinated and unvaccinated mice to model the efficacy of an oral vaccination campaign targeting wild white-footed mice. Projection models suggest that the effects of the vaccine on both critical stages of the transmission cycle of B. burgdorferi act synergistically in a positive feedback loop to reduce the nymphal infection prevalence, and thus human Lyme disease risk, well below what would be expected from either effect alone. This study suggests that oral immunization of wildlife with an OspA-based vaccine can be a promising long-term strategy to reduce human Lyme disease risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Antigens, Surface / genetics
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • Antigens, Surface / metabolism
  • Arachnid Vectors / microbiology*
  • Arachnid Vectors / physiology
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / immunology
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Bacterial Vaccines / genetics
  • Bacterial Vaccines / immunology
  • Bacterial Vaccines / metabolism
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / immunology*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / physiology
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Larva
  • Lipoproteins / genetics
  • Lipoproteins / immunology
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism
  • Lyme Disease / immunology
  • Lyme Disease / prevention & control*
  • Lyme Disease / transmission
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Peromyscus
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Rodent Diseases / microbiology
  • Rodent Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Rodent Diseases / transmission
  • Ticks / microbiology*
  • Ticks / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Lipoproteins
  • OspA protein