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Vaccinating Mice May Finally Slow Lyme Disease

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Killing ticks and inoculating people has failed, so researchers try…

The most important carriers of the Lyme disease bacterium (B. burgdorferi) are white-footed mice. Approximately 50% of the ticks pick up the bacteria by feeding on infected mice, according to researchers.

One study, which involved spreading kibbles (containing the vaccine) across 22 yards in Connecticut, found that 90% of the ticks were eating it. One researcher stated, “I think [the vaccine] will be a valuable tool in the tick management box.”

But there are concerns: Shrews, chipmunks and birds also carry Lyme bacteria and can transfer them to ticks. This vaccine targets white-footed mice.

And tick control is not managed by county or state health officials (unlike mosquito control). It is up to individuals.

"Even if the mouse vaccine works spectacularly, it will hardly make a difference unless there is a concerted effort to deploy it," says Marm Kilpatrick, a disease ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has not worked on the vaccine.