Prevalence of the Lyme Disease Pathogen and Its Vector, the Black-legged Tick (Ixodes scapularis), and Small Mammal Hosts on Maine Farms

With 8,200 farms and 1.45 million acres of working farmland, Maine’s agricultural economy is critical to the state’s overall economic health. Due to the extensive number of hours spent working outdoors, Maine’s farmers face health threats from insect and arthropod vectored diseases.  Of particular concern is the impact of Lyme disease and its vector, the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), which are increasing in the state. In the eastern U.S., the principal carrier of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is the white-footed mouse, though multiple other small mammal species can also serve as infectious hosts. Ticks feeding on these hosts obtain the Lyme disease pathogen, and their subsequent feeding on humans and/or their domestic animals can transmit the infection and cause serious health problems. The objective of our study is to assess the on-farm risks of Lyme disease transmission by examining contributing factors including: a) the abundance of potential small mammal hosts on farms, and b) the number of ticks in various farm habitats and on the small mammal hosts. We will sample farms within Lyme endemic areas of southern and coastal Maine; in Lyme emergent areas in central Maine; and in the currently Lyme free area of Aroostook County.

Investigators: Eleanor Groden, Anne Lichtenwalner, Alessio Mortelliti, Griffin Dill

Award period: 5/1/2016–9/1/2017