New Lyme Disease Map
Lyme Researcher Associates Lyme Disease with Deer Without Research

Durland Fish has garnered lots of media attention by associating a new study on Lyme disease with deer populations (map and abstract to right.) The author has been quoted in the press as saying: "It has to do with deer populations," adding that populations could spread further into Pennsylvania and the Midwest. "They travel with them." [reference 1 below]. In fact, the research does not investigate the relationship between deer populations and deer, and the author refers to research from more than 25 years ago [see reference 2 and 3 below].   He suggests that before deforestation of the northeast there were deer and ticks and now that the northeast has been reforested, the deer and ticks have returned.   There is no new information here related to deer and Lyme.  The author does not suggest that a deer cull will be effective against ticks.  

As the abstract under the map indicates, the map was developed to help with diagnosis of Lyme based on geographical location and did not investigate the cause of the distribution of Lyme. 

According the the article "The probability of finding nymphs was driven by elevation, VPDm [mean vapor pressure deficit], and seasonal variation in temperature." The relationship between deer and Lyme was not investigated by the researchers. The authors speculate that: "The density of infected nymphs was also associated with the density of infected nymphs in nearby sites ... The spatial dependency captured by this term is likely caused by recent and ongoing population expansion of I. scapularis from past refuges in the Northeast and the upper Midwest following environmental changes such as reforestation, suburbanization, and reintroduction of deer."   The author refers to a 1993 article in which he concludes, "The emergence of this disease is in part the consequence of the reforestation of the northeastern United States and the rise in deer populations. [See reference 2 below]"  In fact this statement is based on a 1985 article which simply points out that the colonists reported many deer and ticks before the northeast was deforested.

Reference:

1. Researcher: NJ is 'loaded' with ticks carrying Lyme disease February 4, 2012 New Jersey, The Star-Ledger - NJ.com, By Victoria St. Martin

2. AG Barbour and D Fish he biological and social phenomenon of Lyme disease Science 11 June 1993: Vol. 260 no. 5114 pp. 1610-1616 DOI: 10.1126/science.8503006

3.  A. Spielman, M. L. Wilson, J. F. Levine, J. Piesman, Annu. Rev. Entomol. 30, 439 (1985).
Lyme Map



Am J Trop Med Hyg 2012 vol. 86 no. 2320-327 Maria A. Diuk-Wasser*, Anne Gatewood Hoen, Paul Cislo, Robert Brinkerhoff, Sarah A. Hamer, Michelle Rowland, Roberto Cortinas, Gwenaël Vourc'h, Forrest Melton, Graham J. Hickling, Jean I. Tsao, Jonas Bunikis, Alan G. Barbour, Uriel Kitron, Joseph Piesman and Durland Fish

Abstract.

The geographic pattern of human risk for infection withBorrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, the tick-borne pathogen that causes Lyme disease, was mapped for the eastern United States. The map is based on standardized field sampling in 304 sites of the density of Ixodes scapularis host-seeking nymphs infected with B. burgdorferi, which is closely associated with human infection risk. Risk factors for the presence and density of infected nymphs were used to model a continuous 8 km×8 km resolution predictive surface of human risk, including confidence intervals for each pixel. Discontinuous Lyme disease risk foci were identified in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with a transitional zone including sites with uninfected I. scapularis populations. Given frequent under- and over-diagnoses of Lyme disease, this map could act as a tool to guide surveillance, control, and prevention efforts and act as a baseline for studies tracking the spread of infection.