Broad-based vaccination of wild mice could help reduce lyme disease risk in humans

Vaccinating large populations of white-footed mice against the bacterium that causes Lyme disease could help reduce the risk of transmission of the disease to humans, says a study supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health. The findings, scheduled to be published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrate that vaccination of wildlife hosts may be a promising ecologically based strategy to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases to humans by vectors such as insects and ticks.

"This 'proof-of-principle' study demonstrates that vaccinating a carrier of a vector-borne disease in the wild is a potential method for preventing transmission of that disease to humans," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director. "When integrated with other protective measures, this strategy could have significant implications, not only for preventing Lyme disease, but for preventing other vector-borne diseases as well, including plague and West Nile virus."

"The targeted vaccination of wildlife carriers could offer more far-reaching protection against vector-borne diseases than vaccinating humans," adds Alan Barbour, M.D., professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and medicine with the University of California, Irvine, and senior author on the paper. "When the vaccine is targeted to humans, only those who experienced a satisfactory immune response to the vaccine are protected; however, when the vaccine is targeted to wildlife carriers, the risk of infection is lowered for everyone in the community."

Lyme disease is the leading cause of vector-borne illness in the United States. Approximately 23,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in the United States in 2002. The disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a spiral-shaped bacterium spread through the bite of a blacklegged tick. Symptoms can include a characteristic "bull's-eye" rash k

Contact: Jennifer Wenger
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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