In wild animals, charting the pathways of disease

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Richard Ostfeld comments on Lyme disease and the connection to white-footed mice in a New York Times article exploring the links between wildlife and infectious diseases.

Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., has been studying the causes of Lyme disease, which causes fatigue, achy joints, fever and chills and has been linked to neurological and heart disease.

White-footed mice are a reservoir for the bacteria that creates Lyme, and Dr. Ostfeld says one reason they are so successful at it is that they reproduce very rapidly when the woods are developed and their predators disappear.

"The fast dudes like mice are incredibly resilient in the face of human disturbance," he said. And because they live only six months, they may put their energy into breeding at the expense of immune defense, and so magnify the prevalence of Lyme.

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