, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 27-36
Date: 23 Feb 2010

The role of deer in facilitating the spatial spread of the pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi

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Abstract

Borrelia burgdorferi is a vector-bourne zoonosis which propagates in wild populations of rodents and deer. The latter are incompetent for the pathogen but are required for the life cycle of hard-backed ticks which act as a vector for the pathogen. Increasing the diversity of hosts has previously suggested the presence of a ‘dilution effect’ in which such an increase reduces successful pathogen transmission as it increases the chance that a tick will encounter an incompetent host. This paper will produce a model which shows that whilst a dilution effect is possible for a system in which deer are the only incompetent host, this effect is not likely to be strong. Extending the population dynamics to include movement of deer into regions previously only inhabited by competent hosts, we find that, although ticks come in with the deer, there is a significant time lag before Borrelia appears.