Hosts as ecological traps for the vector of Lyme disease

F. Keesing, J. Brunner, S. Duerr, M. Killilea, K. LoGiudice, K. Schmidt, H. Vuong, R. S. Ostfeld

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Abstract

Vectors of infectious diseases are generally thought to be regulated by abiotic conditions such as climate or the availability of specific hosts or habitats. In this study we tested whether blacklegged ticks, the vectors of Lyme disease, granulocytic anaplasmosis and babesiosis can be regulated by the species of vertebrate hosts on which they obligately feed. By subjecting field-caught hosts to parasitism by larval blacklegged ticks, we found that some host species (e.g. opossums, squirrels) that are abundantly parasitized in nature kill 83-96% of the ticks that attempt to attach and feed, while other species are more permissive of tick feeding. Given natural tick burdens we document on these hosts, we show that some hosts can kill thousands of ticks per hectare. These results indicate that the abundance of tick vectors can be regulated by the identity of the hosts upon which these vectors feed. By simulating the removal of hosts from intact communities using empirical models, we show that the loss of biodiversity may exacerbate disease risk by increasing both vector numbers and vector infection rates with a zoonotic pathogen.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3911-3919
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume276
Issue number1675
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 22 2009

Keywords

  • Diversity
  • Host
  • Infectious disease
  • Lyme disease
  • Vector
  • Zoonotic disease

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    Keesing, F., Brunner, J., Duerr, S., Killilea, M., LoGiudice, K., Schmidt, K., Vuong, H., & Ostfeld, R. S. (2009). Hosts as ecological traps for the vector of Lyme disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1675), 3911-3919. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2009.1159