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.
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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.