Background: In the northeastern United States, tick-borne diseases are a major public health concern. In controlled studies, a single springtime application of acaricide has been shown to kill 68%-100% of ticks. Although public health authorities recommend use of acaricides to control tick populations in yards, the effectiveness of these pesticides to prevent tick bites or human tick-borne diseases is unknown.
Methods: We conducted a 2-year, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial among 2727 households in 3 northeastern states. Households received a single springtime barrier application of bifenthrin or water according to recommended practices. Tick drags were conducted 3-4 weeks after treatment on 10% of properties. Information on human-tick encounters and tick-borne diseases was collected through monthly surveys; reports of illness were validated by medical record review.
Results: Although the abundance of questing ticks was significantly lower (63%) on acaricide-treated properties, there was no difference between treatment groups in human-tick encounters, self-reported tick-borne diseases, or medical-record-validated tick-borne diseases.
Conclusions: Used as recommended, acaricide barrier sprays do not significantly reduce the household risk of tick exposure or incidence of tick-borne disease. Measures for preventing tick-borne diseases should be evaluated against human outcomes to confirm effectiveness.
Keywords: Lyme disease; acaricide; humans; pesticide; prevention; tick-borne diseases; ticks.
Published by Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America 2016. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.