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Temporal correlations between tick abundance and prevalence of ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi and increasing incidence of Lyme disease.

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Abstract

The abundance of host-seeking Ixodes scapularis nymphs, the principal vector for the
Lyme disease agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, in Old
Lyme,
Lyme, and East Haddam, Connecticut, was compared with the incidence of reported human
Lyme disease in the 12-town area around the Connecticut River and the State of Connecticut for the period 1989 to 1996. Ticks were sampled from lawns and woodlands by dragging flannel over the vegetation and examined for the presence of B. burgdorferi by indirect fluorescent antibody staining. The infection rate of the nymphal ticks by B. burgdorferi during the 9-year period was 14.3% (of 3,866), ranging from 8.6% (1993) to 24.4% (1996). The incidence of
Lyme disease was positively correlated with tick abundance in the 12 town area (r = 0.828) and the State of Connecticut (r = 0.741). An entomological risk index based upon the number of I. scapularis ticks infected by B. burgdorferi was highest in 1992, 1994, and 1996 and was highly correlated with the incidence of
Lyme disease in Connecticut (r = 0.944). The number of
Lyme disease cases has been influenced, in part, by annual changes in population densities of I. scapularis and, presumably, a corresponding change in the risk of contact with infected ticks. Based upon tick activity and spirochetal infection rates, epidemiologically based
Lyme disease case reports on a regional scale appear to reflect real trends in
disease.

J Clin Microbiol. 1998 May;36(5):1240-4. Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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