New research on Lyme disease shows need to vaccinate mice

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2019


K9 Corner

I was reading the April issue of “DogWatch” published by Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and noticed a news brief concerning the latest on Lyme disease. The entomologists are getting really creative to try to slow the spread of the disease.

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Since it has been a long time since I have written about Lyme disease, here are the latest statistics. This disease was discovered in 1977 in Old Lyme, Connecticut, hence the name.

According to , Lyme disease is now found in all 50 states. Current research has found the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, have been found in ticks that have just hatched from eggs — “something that isn’t supposed to happen.” Previously it was thought that the bacteria were acquired by ticks from feeding on infected blood, not at birth.

Both deer and mice are considered a source of the bacteria. Warmer temperatures and fewer predators of mice can also increase the Lyme disease risk.

The Northeast and Midwest has seen an increase in Lyme disease cases but there are now notable increases in California, Arizona and Texas.

According to, Lyme disease is a potentially fatal illness that is transmitted to humans by blacklegged ticks. An infected tick bite will often exhibit a rash which can disappear without treatment, but later, the person develops problems with the joints, heart and nervous system. The bacteria can remain dormant for weeks, months and even years after the initial bite.

That is the reason it is recommended that the person removing an embedded tick should see a doctor for early treatment; even before antibodies to the bacteria show up in a blood test, since it takes two to six weeks for the body to produce the antibodies.

Most people get rid of the larger adult ticks before they have time to transmit the bacterium, so human infections tend to occur as a result of bites from barely visible nymphs.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States. It is transmitted through the bite of certain kinds of ticks that are infected; (there are many varieties of ticks, some not found in the States and not every tick is infected). The bite is not itchy or painful, but the area may feel warm to touch around the bite area.

The news brief in “DogWatch” starts, “The battle against Lyme disease just got more interesting. The entomologists are moving away from trying to destroy all the deer in the Northeast and are concentrating on vaccinating all the white-footed mice that also carry the disease organism. Their magic bullet is a kibble that contains an oral vaccine. Produced by Purina, the pellet has layers “like a peanut M&M” according to one researcher. One layer has the vaccine; another layer provides a coating that protects the vaccine from stomach acids. “The vaccine enters the bloodstream through the animal’s intestines.”

“By targeting the mice, researchers hope to stop the spread of the bacteria before the tick bites.”