Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in North America and presents challenges to clinicians, researchers and the public in diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Lyme disease is caused by the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is a zoonotic pathogen obligate upon hematophagous arthropod vectors and propagates in small mammal reservoir hosts. Identifying factors governing zoonotic diseases within regions of high-risk provides local health and agricultural agencies with necessary information to formulate public policy and implement treatment protocols to abate the rise and expansion of infectious disease outbreaks. In the United States, the documented primary reservoir host of Lyme disease is the white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus, and the arthropod vector is the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis. Reducing the impact of Lyme disease will need novel methods for identifying both the reservoir host and the tick vector. The reservoir host, Peromyscus leucopus is difficult to distinguish from the virtually identical Peromyscus maniculatus that also is present in Northern Minnesota, a region where Lyme disease is endemic. Collection of the Ixodes tick, the Lyme disease vector, is difficult as this is season dependent and differs from year to year. This study develops new strategies to assess the extent of Borrelia burgdorferi in the local environment of Northern Minnesota. A selective and precise method to identify Peromyscus species was developed. This assay provides a reliable and definitive method to identify the reservoir host, Peromyscus leucopus from a physically identical and sympatric Peromyscus species, Peromyscus maniculatus. A new strategy to collect ticks for measuring the disbursement of Borrelia was employed. Students from local high schools were recruited to collect ticks. This strategy increased the available manpower to cover greater terrain, provided students with valuable experience in research methodology, and highlighted the prospect of increasing community engagement in university-based research projects.
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. October 2015. Major: Integrated Biosciences. Advisors: Benjamin Clarke, Lynne Bemis. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 138 pages.
Novel methods for surveying reservoir hosts and vectors of Borrelia burgdorferi in Northern Minnesota.
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