Source: Democrat And Chronicle
East Stroudsburg University and Allegheny College are partnering on a $1 million research project deliver an anti-tick vaccine to mice in six counties through food pellets, explained Nicole Chinnici, director of the Pennsylvania Tick Research Lab at ESU.
The feeders are designed to be inaccessible to larger animals. The white-footed mouse, which can be found throughout the Northeast, is a “reservoir host” that transmits various pathogens to ticks, Chinnici said.
“Everything that we’ve seen in the lab research has indicated that this vaccine’s very effective at reducing the ticks, especially ticks that are feeding on mice populations, so this study will give us a better understanding of how this works in the environment and how Pennsylvania can move towards a treatment strategy that’s effective,” she said.
A few states have conducted similar studies with a vaccine specific to Lyme disease, Chinnici said, but this is the first broader mouse vaccination study in the wild, and the first tick mitigation study at all in Pennsylvania.
Based on the lifespans of ticks and mice, results could become apparent around the third year of the study. “In order for us to really see a reduction in an area, we would have to get through a couple generations, so that the treatment is really saturating the environment in terms of exposure of mice, if the mice are able to pass the ability on to their litters and things like that,” she said.
Feeders will be placed at 12 locations each in Bucks, Lehigh, Monroe, and Pike counties in eastern Pennsylvania, as well as Crawford and Mercer counties (part of Brooks’ district) in western Pennsylvania.
“We’ll also be looking at doing some acaricidal sprays that specifically focus on tick populations, and then looking at combinations of different integrated pest management strategies to see if we can determine the best strategy for Pennsylvania to reduce tick populations over time,” Chinnici said.
Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses
For six straight years through 2018, Pennsylvania has reported more Lyme disease cases than any other state. Levels have fluctuated in other mid-Atlantic states such as New Jersey during the same period, but none have experienced the same sharp rise as Pennsylvania.
Lyme disease can cause stiffness, joint pain and short-term memory problems, among other symptoms, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “Most people treated with antibiotics, especially those treated early, fully recover from Lyme diseases,” according to the Department, though about 20% of people have persistent symptoms.