Disease Risk in a Dynamic Environment: The Spread of Tick-Borne Pathogens in Minnesota, USA

Abstract

As humans and climate change alter the landscape, novel disease risk scenarios emerge. Understanding the complexities of pathogen emergence and subsequent spread as shaped by landscape heterogeneity is crucial to understanding disease emergence, pinpointing high-risk areas, and mitigating emerging disease threats in a dynamic environment. Tick-borne diseases present an important public health concern and incidence of many of these diseases are increasing in the United States. The complex epidemiology of tick-borne diseases includes strong ties with environmental factors that influence host availability, vector abundance, and pathogen transmission. Here, we used 16 years of case data from the Minnesota Department of Health to report spatial and temporal trends in Lyme disease (LD), human anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. We then used a spatial regression framework to evaluate the impact of landscape and climate factors on the spread of LD. Finally, we use the fitted model, and landscape and climate datasets projected under varying climate change scenarios, to predict future changes in tick-borne pathogen risk. Both forested habitat and temperature were important drivers of LD spread in Minnesota. Dramatic changes in future temperature regimes and forest communities predict rising risk of tick-borne disease.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the graduate student team at MDH for conducting TBP case follow-up. This work was supported by the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment and Cooperative Agreements (U50/CCU510333-06). Partial support for UGM came from NIH Grant (R01AI042792).

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Correspondence to Stacie J. Robinson.

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Robinson, S.J., Neitzel, D.F., Moen, R.A. et al. Disease Risk in a Dynamic Environment: The Spread of Tick-Borne Pathogens in Minnesota, USA. EcoHealth 12, 152–163 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-014-0979-y

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Keywords

  • annaplasmosis
  • babesiosis
  • climate change
  • ixodes scapularis
  • landscape epidemiology
  • lyme disease
  • spatial model
  • tick-borne pathogens
  • tick-borne disease