Over 300,000 people in the US are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year and up to one in five develop serious, long-term symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector borne illness in the United States. Unfortunately, Lyme is only the most common of a long list of tick-borne diseases, many posing even more serious health problems with no near-term – let alone permanent – solutions.
Tick-borne diseases are caused by pathogens that are transferred to humans by infected ticks. In eastern North America, ticks most often acquire these pathogens when they feed on white-footed mice. The risk of tick-borne disease has grown as a result of environmental changes that have improved conditions for the ecology of tick-borne disease by dramatically increasing the number of white-tailed deer and white-footed mice. Few areas are as afflicted as the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Between 2010 and 2014, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket had the highest proportion of confirmed and probable Lyme disease cases in Massachusetts.
Mice Against Ticks is an open, community-guided project which aims to safeguard islands like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by stably reducing the incidence of tick-borne disease. The communities of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are directing this MIT based project to immunize the local mouse population in order to permanently break the transmission cycle between white-footed mice and ticks. This long-lasting, ecological solution should reduce the number of infected ticks, prevent new human infections and profoundly impact this growing public health challenge.