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In wake of Lyme disease vaccine for people, mice may be next in line for shots

fall into the mix as they cross paths both in the wilderness and even in yards where wildlife treads.

A vaccine for humans was developed to prevent Lyme disease, but has been withdrawn from the market due to complaints of potentially vaccine-caused arthritis. Reducing the deer population has proven difficult in many areas for practical and political reasons.

Targeting mice is important because they are responsible for producing many infected nymphs, the young tick stage that presents the greatest health risk for people.

Tsao decided to take an experimental view of the Lyme disease cycle in nature to get a better understanding of how the Lyme disease pathogen distributes itself among the forest animals. She spent summers in 1998 and 2001 with a team of field assistants in 12 different forested sites in Connecticut, running what amounted to a medical clinic for mice

The mice were trapped live in the one- and two-hectare forest plots. After anesthetizing mice, the researchers would weigh each mouse, draw blood and count ticks. Mice often are loaded with ticks she's seen as many as 60 stuck to just one ear of a mouse. All mice were tagged and vaccinated with the Lyme vaccine, then rehydrated with an apple slice and released.

In the end, she ended up with medical records of nearly 1,000 mice. "I had to keep track of every mouse, because I wanted to know how many booster shots we gave it, how it responded to the vaccine, and whether the vaccine had failed," she said.

The vaccine's beauty in the field is that it kills the bacteria in any ticks that feed off the immunized mouse, leaving that tick unthreatening to humans.

After immunizing roughly 55 percent of the mouse population over the course of the two studies, researchers saw an overall 16 percent reduction in the prevalence of nymphal infection at locations in which mice had been given vaccine ver
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Contact: Jean Tsao
tsao@msu.edu
517-353-1737
Michigan State University
13-Dec-2004


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