When you think of the animal that transmits Lyme disease, the black-legged (deer) tick probably comes to mind. But scientists have recently sequenced the genome of another carrier of Lyme: the white-footed mouse. The mouse carries the bacteria but does not get sick from it. Could this development help stop Lyme disease?
Why is this important?
- Sequencing the genome is significant because it’s a big step towards finding new ways to prevent the transmission of Lyme.
- It took four years to decode the genetic makeup of the white-footed mouse. Knowing its genetic makeup provides a road map that will make new research approaches faster and more efficient.
- The white-footed mouse is usually found in wooded areas, shrubbery, and wetlands, and not in residences. Humans become infected with Lyme after being bitten by a tick that had fed on an animal carrying the bacteria.
- In addition to Lyme, white-footed mice also carry other emerging infections, including a form of viral encephalitis and diseases similar to malaria and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
- It has been difficult to prevent Lyme by focusing on ticks, so some researchers have decided to instead focus on the animal carrying Lyme.
- One avenue that researchers might take is vaccinating the white-footed mice against Lyme. This process has already been used to prevent rabies transmission in other kinds of animals.
- “Understanding what shields them from getting sick could guide us in protecting humans from it,” Alan Barbour, a professor of medicine and microbiology & molecular genetics at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, said.
It’s still important to protect yourself from ticks while researchers figure out how we can benefit from this advancement.
- Wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing and long pants when you’re in the woods or brush.
- Stay in the middle of trails.
- Using bug repellents that contains DEET or picaridin, or treat clothes with permethrin. Follow label directions closely.
- Bathe and do a thorough tick-check after being outside.
The Modern Solution
Another important step in keeping your family safe from ticks is treating your property. Modern’s Homecare Mosquito, Flea, and Tick program provides a meaningful reduction in all three disease-spreading vector pests. If you reduce the amount of ticks on your property, then you also reduce the chance of contracting a tick-borne illness. Don’t wait another day, call Modern at 1-800-323-7378 to get a free quote or schedule service.