By developing predictive models that incorporate climate and landscape variables, researchers have accurately forecasted the prevalence and distribution of Lyme disease bacteria. Such a tool could be a powerful public health asset, the researchers say.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, examined the relationship between two major factors in the spread of Lyme disease – bacteria and environment – in terms of how landscape environment and climate affect the spread of the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
A forecasting method has been developed
The result of their study is a powerful analytical model that accurately predicts the prevalence and spread of Lyme disease bacteria, which is a very useful public health tool in reducing the spread of the disease.
To build their model, the research team collected data from almost 19,000 black-legged ticks between 2009 and 2018 at hundreds of sites across New York State.
They assessed how the number of bacteria-infected and non-infected ticks varies with local environmental characteristics such as altitude, public facilities.
Other factors taken into account include distance from roads, the size of the vertebrate host population, including humans, bears, birds and deer, and climatic factors.
Climate is a determining factor
The researchers found that infectivity was most influenced by climatic factors such as the mean monthly temperature or the number of days with sub-zero temperatures.
The result of their study is exciting because knowing the effect of the environment on ticks and bacteria allows us to predict where and when higher levels of pathogens will appear.
Source: University of Pennsylvania