In this video, produced by Harvard University's Center for the Environment as a resource for the Planetary Health Alliance, Rick Ostfeld explains the ecology of Lyme disease. Discover how acorns and white-footed mice amplify disease risk, why predators like foxes make good neighbors, and the impact climate change and forest fragmentation have on the spread of tick-borne disease.
Rick Ostfeld and Felicia Keesing have been studying Lyme disease and ways to stop it for more than 20 years. The couple has come up with a way to predict how bad a Lyme season will be a full year in advance.
Amphibians are important indicators of ecosystem health but are declining globally. A major contributor to amphibian declines is Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a pathogenic fungus that causes cutaneous infection in many amphibian species.
Environmental changes can impact host-parasite interactions by altering fundamental host behaviors, such as competition, predation, foraging, and sociality. These environmentally-induced changes to wildlife host communities affect the epidemiology of zoonotic pathogens.
The Tick Project is testing whether environmental interventions can prevent tick-borne diseases in our communities. The need for prevention is stronger than ever, with expanding tick populations and more than 300,000 Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease each year.
Why do the majority of human infectious diseases originate from wildlife? Our lab seeks to identify intrinsic characteristics of wild species (e.g., life history, ecological, physiological traits) that signal their potential to be future reservoirs of zoonotic diseases (human diseases with animal origins).
Different species of tick hosts tend to have different probabilities of transmitting an infection to a feeding tick. In eastern and central North America, the host most likely to transmit an infection to a feeding tick is the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), which infects between 40% and 90% of feeding larvae.
Biodiversity can protect human health by reducing human exposure to diseases transmitted from wildlife. Environmental changes, such as habitat fragmentation, can increase disease risk by reducing both predators and biodiversity.