Lyme Disease is a tick-borne illness that affects over 300,000 people in the United States alone each year. Infected blacklegged ticks can transmit the disease to humans. Lyme Disease is no joke; untreated infections can damage the heart, joints, and nervous system. And although many people think that deer are the main cause of the spread of the disease (blacklegged ticks are commonly called deer ticks), the most common carrier of Lyme Disease is the white-footed mouse.
Currently, there are no human vaccines for Lyme Disease. So researchers are trying to tackle the problem in a different way- by vaccinating mice! They developed an oral vaccine, mixed it into an oatmeal pellet, and baited plots of land with these pellets. The theory is that ticks feeding on vaccinated mice would ingest the antibodies made in the mouse’s body, thus killing any bacteria carried by the ticks, and preventing them from transmitting the disease to humans. And it works- researchers saw a 76% decrease in infected ticks on the treated plots of land.
Right now, scientists are working on USDA approval for the vaccine pellets. If approved, hopefully this will make a big difference in reducing the number of cases of Lyme Disease in humans- and as an added bonus, it won’t hurt the animals or the environment!