Mice are Super Hosts to Lyme Disease: Study

First Posted: Apr 07, 2014 12:54 PM EDT

Researchers from Sarah Lawrence have discovered that the white-footed mouse may be a perfect host for the tiny, bloodsucking parasites that harbor Lyme disease--a tick-borne illnesses more commonly seen in the Northern hemisphere, that affects roughly 30,000 people in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Lead study author and biologist from the university Michelle Hersh said that the mice work as super hosts for the ticks and potential carriers of the disease.

"They basically thumb their noses at ticks, no matter how many are on them," said study co-author Richard Ostfeld, via the "There is something about these mice that makes them incredibly permissive to infection by the pathogens that make us sick, and also to the ticks that bite them and us."

Though many moose found in the New Hampshire, Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming regions that came in contact with a population of winter ticks wasted away due to insect exposure, findings showed that these mice are easily able to carry hundreds of ticks and still survive.

"Before this study I expected that heavy tick infestation itself might regulate mouse populations," Ostfeld said. "Ticks would be our ally in a sense. But that is definitely not happening. The ticks are simply not having any negative effect on the mice."

As researchers are currently working on a mouse vaccine against Lyme disease, Ostfeld notes that results produced a 70 percent reduction in the infection rate of ticks after four years of treatment.

"I don't see it as the silver bullet, but in combination with other methods, it could help," he concludes, via

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the journal Ecology.

Symptoms of Lyme disease range from rash to pain in the joints, along with headache, fatigue and fever. If left untreated, the health issue can spread to the joints, the heart and even the central nervous system.

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