Predicted outcomes of vaccinating wildlife to reduce human risk of Lyme disease.


Vaccination efforts for Lyme disease prevention in humans have focused on wildlife reservoirs to target the causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, for elimination in vector ticks. Multiple host species are involved in the transmission and maintenance of the bacterium, but not all host species can be vaccinated effectively. To evaluate vaccinating a subset of hosts in the context of host-tick interactions, we constructed and evaluated a dynamic model of B. burgdorferi transmission in mice. Our analyses indicate that on average, a mouse-targeted vaccine is expected to proportionally reduce infection prevalence among ticks by 56%. However, relative to mouse vaccination, human risk of exposure is dominated by the number of tick bites received per person, the proportion of tick blood meals taken from the highly reservoir-competent white-footed mouse relative to other hosts, and the average number of tick bites per mouse. Variation in these factors reduces the predictability of vaccination outcomes. Additionally, contributions of nonmouse hosts to pathogen maintenance preclude elimination of B. burgdorferi through mouse vaccination alone. Our findings indicate that to increase the impact of wildlife vaccination, reducing tick populations by acaricide application, in addition to targeting additional reservoir-competent host species, should be employed.

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