Acorn boom in 2010 = Lyme disease boom now?
Posted by David Brooks | Thursday, March 22, 2012
We had a full house for last night's Science Cafe NH about Lyme disease. There was some disagreement - polite and informed, of course - between panelists Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, an infectious disease specialist, and Dr. Steve Clark, a naturopath. Clark thinks mainstream medicine misses a lot of Lyme disease and related diseases caused by ticks; Dionne-Odom thinks Clark ends up too often throwing antibiotics at Lyme when the problem is something else.
There was plenty of agreement, however, that Lyme is spreading and ticks are everywhere: One audience member, a hunter who has outdoors experience, talked about wandering through Hollis recently and ending up with 20 ticks on his pants.
Which leads to an interesting fact that Dionne-Odom related: A researcher has correlated acron crops with tick populations, and says the 2010 boom crop of acrons with last year's acorn bust will produce a boom crop of Lyme in people this year. The reason is that lots of acrons means lots of food for white-footed mice, a prime Lyme disease carrier in the Northeast. So the mouse population soared, and the deer tick population soared with it. But there were few acorns this fall and winter, so the mice population crashed.
The result, says the article in Science Daily (read it here): "this spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme)-infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal. And instead of finding a white-footed mouse, they are going to find other mammals."