Lyme disease may spike in the northeastern US this spring due to a change in acorn crops, according to a disease ecologist.
Dr. Richard Ostfeld, a Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies ecologist, says this rise in the bacterial infection will be due to decreasing acorn crops and white-footed mice populations, said the Examiner.
Researchers at the Insitute say a bumper crop of acorns in 2010 caused mouse populations to dramatically increase in 2011, along with a surge in the tick population - the insect that carries the disease. In 2011, the acorn crop dropped off leaving fewer mice but many more ticks, said the Associated Press.
“We had a boom in acorns, followed by a boom in mice. And now, on the heels of one of the smallest acorn crops we’ve ever seen, the mouse population is crashing. This spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi-infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal. And instead of finding a white-footed mouse, they are going to find other mammals—like us,” said Ostfeld during a presentation Tuesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, according to Medical Daily.
Due to frequent tick bites, mice harbor Lyme disease more than other small mammals, yet without any harm to them.
The disease, which was first discovered in 1975 in Connecticut, is a bacterial infection common to the northeastern US that causes skin lesions and chronic neurological and rheumatological symptoms.
According to Wired, Ostfeld's predictions are based on earlier papers on white-footed mice that can be found here, here and here.