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Hosts as ecological traps for the vector of Lyme disease

Journal Article
Abstract

Vectors of infectious diseases are generally thought to be regulated by abiotic conditions such as climate or the availability of specific hosts or habitats. In this study we tested whether blacklegged ticks, the vectors of Lyme disease, granulocytic anaplasmosis and babesiosis can be regulated by the species of vertebrate hosts on which they obligately feed. By subjecting field-caught hosts to parasitism by larval blacklegged ticks, we found that some host species (e.g. opossums, squirrels) that are abundantly parasitized in nature kill 83–96% of the ticks that attempt to attach and feed, while other species are more permissive of tick feeding. Given natural tick burdens we document on these hosts, we show that some hosts can kill thousands of ticks per hectare.

These results indicate that the abundance of tick vectors can be regulated by the identity of the hosts upon which these vectors feed. By simulating the removal of hosts from intact communities using empirical models, we show that the loss of biodiversity may exacerbate disease risk by increasing both vector numbers and vector infection rates with a zoonotic pathogen.

These results indicate that the abundance of tick vectors can be regulatedby the identity of the hosts upon which these vectors feed. By simulating the removal of hosts from intactcommunities using empirical models, we show that the loss of biodiversity may exacerbate disease risk byincreasing both vector numbers and vector infection rates with a zoonotic pathogen.

Year of Publication
2009
Journal
P. Roy. Soc. B.-Biol. Sci.
Volume
276
Pages
3911-3919
URL http://www.caryinstitute.org/reprints/Keesing_2009_ProcB.pdf