Critical Evaluation of the Linkage Between Tick-Based Risk Measures and the Occurrence of Lyme Disease Cases
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Critical Evaluation of the Linkage Between Tick-Based Risk Measures and the Occurrence of Lyme Disease Cases

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  • English

  • Details:

    • Alternative Title:
      J Med Entomol
    • Description:
      The nymphal stage of the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say, is considered the primary vector to humans in the eastern United States of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. The abundance of infected host-seeking nymphs is commonly used to estimate the fundamental risk of human exposure to B. burgdorferi, for the purpose of environmental risk assessment and as an outcome measure when evaluating environmentally based tick or pathogen control methods. However, as this tick-based risk measure does not consider the likelihoods of either human encounters with infected ticks or tick bites resulting in pathogen transmission, its linkage to the occurrence of Lyme disease cases is worth evaluating. In this Forum article, we describe different tick-based risk measures, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and review the evidence for their capacity to predict the occurrence of Lyme disease cases. We conclude that: 1) the linkage between abundance of host-seeking B. burgdorferi-infected nymphs and Lyme disease occurrence is strong at community or county scales but weak at the fine spatial scale of residential properties where most human exposures to infected nymphs occur in Northeast, 2) the combined use of risk measures based on infected nymphs collected from the environment and ticks collected from humans is preferable to either one of these risk measures used singly when assessing the efficacy of environmentally based tick or pathogen control methods aiming to reduce the risk of human exposure to B. burgdorferi, 3) there is a need for improved risk assessment methodology for residential properties that accounts for both the abundance of infected nymphs and the likelihood of human-tick contact, and 4) we need to better understand how specific human activities conducted in defined residential microhabitats relate to risk for nymphal exposures and bites.
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