Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 27–36 | Cite as

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

  • Matthew HartfieldEmail author
  • K. A. Jane White
  • Klaus Kurtenbach
Original Paper


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.


Borrelia zoonosis Pathogen invasion Dilution effect Population diffusion Compartment model 



We would like to thank Loukia Lili for her help and advice on the mathematical models. KAJW was supported in part by the Leverhulme Trust; MH was supported by a MTG from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The work presented here was all completed whilst Klaus Kurtenbach was alive. Sadly he passed away before submission of the paper. We present this work in his memory—his knowledge and passion for understanding all aspects of Lyme disease were the inspiration which motivated this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Hartfield
    • 1
    Email author
  • K. A. Jane White
    • 1
  • Klaus Kurtenbach
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Mathematical BiologyUniversity of BathBathUK
  2. 2.Department of Biology and BiochemistryUniversity of BathBathUK

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