Ontario research on the blacklegged tick and Lyme disease

blacklegged tick – photo courtesy of Lisa Werden

During the autumn months, the risk of encountering a blacklegged tick in eastern North America increases.  Blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), are the vectors of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease in humans.  Tick hosts include small mammals, birds, and white-tailed deer.  Adult blacklegged ticks actively seek a blood meal in the fall and humans can be incidental hosts.  Lyme disease is an emerging disease in many areas of eastern Canada, including the Thousand Islands region in eastern Ontario.

blacklegged tick – photo courtesy of Lisa Werden

From 2009-2012, the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, the University of Guelph, Parks Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources supported an MSc research project on the ecology of Lyme disease transmission in the Thousand Islands region of Ontario.  Twelve island and mainland sites in the Thousand Islands region were included in the study.  Important factors in predicting the number of ticks and prevalence of B. burgdorferi infection in those ticks included deer abundance, distance to the United States, temperature, species richness, and relative mouse abundance. The results of the study will contribute to management strategies to reduce Lyme disease risk in the Thousand Islands.  The study will also add to our understanding of the effects of biodiversity on disease risk.

Article by M.Sc. graduate Lisa Werden.  Her thesis is available to view online.

For more information on Lyme Disease, please visit the Ontario Ministry of Health website.

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2 Responses

  1. Pierre Mineau says:

    Years ago, I recall someone looking at the effect of providing insecticide-laden cotton to the small mammal population in order to break the tick cycle. Does anyone know whether this work was concluant and whether this is an avenue worth pursuing?

  2. Gerry Lee says:

    Pierre, I recall reading about the same piece of work. It was carried out in an Northeast U.S. state park, and involved stuffing insecticide laden cotton batten into the inner cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls. My recollection is that the study claimed it worked, but would be only practical for small areas.Don’t recall the source, authors or park it was done in.

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