White-footed mouse

Vaccine for Lyme Disease Shows Promise Treating Mice in Redding Backyards

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The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is one step closer to a reducing the risk of contracting Lyme disease, by targeting the bacteria in its most common carrier, the white-footed mouse.

“Ticks can take the pathogen from the mice, if we are able to neutralize the pathogen in mice then it can’t be given to the ticks and then us,” said Scott Williams, an agricultural scientist at the experiment station and co-author of the study.

For the study, scientists took a previously successful oral vaccine and used it to treat food for mice in the backyards of homeowners in Redding, Connecticut. Researchers later tested mice and the ticks for the bacteria. After one year, the researchers observed a 26 percent decrease in the bacteria in mice and ticks in the backyards with the vaccinated food, compared to a 2 percent decrease in untreated backyards.

“This was our first time studying this technique in the wild, and it was successful” Williams said. “Next we will need to go larger scale and longer term.”

Despite the positive result, the goal of having vaccinated feed available for homeowners to buy is still years away, Williams said.

“The ultimate goal would be to have this available at Home Depot so people could buy the self-contained station and place it out in the yard,” Williams said. “But they are worried about impacts to other wildlife species and humans, what would happen if a child ingested the food accidently?”

The vaccine development and research has been underway for more than 15 years already and Williams said he does not expect to see the United States Department of Agriculture regulatory process for commercial licensure completed any time soon. 

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