Biodiversity key to breaking cycle of tick infection in humans

Biological diversity is key to maintaining the many ecosystems that form our environments and, on a greater scale, the ecological balance of the planet.

Even small impacts on one part of an ecosystem can have major consequences further afield. New research from the Netherlands indicates that a healthy presence of small-mammal predators, such as foxes, stoats, weasels, and martens, could play a significant role in reducing the spread of Lyme disease (Burkholderia pseudomallei).

First blood

August marks the highpoint of the tick calendar, as the new generation of ticks hatch out and venture off in search of their first blood meal. Their first victims are generally small mammals such as mice, which often carry pathogens that can be transferred, via the tick, into the human bloodstream.

Victim chain

The Dutch study revealed that in areas where the presence of predators was high, small mammal activity was curtailed, due to predation or reduced freedom of movement. Consequently, areas of high biodiversity showed a lower prevalence of infected mammals. The ticks then had fewer infected victims upon which to prey, and the potential risk of pathogen transfer to humans was reduced.

Prevention

During the two-year study, the researcher took preventative measures including the use of  conventional tick-repellent Permethrin; however, he still had to remove over 100 ticks from his body.*

Social responsibility and transparency

The study provides strong evidence in support of biodiversity and its role in preserving balance in nature. Through its commitment to responsible innovation, Evolva supports the three main aims of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): the conservation of biodiversity; the sustainable use of biological components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.

Read more about the Dutch biodiversity study here: NY Times article and here: Royal Society paper and find out more about Evolva’s commitment to biodiversity here.

* To combat the risk of infection from ticks, Evolva is currently developing ‘Nootkatone’ – a biologically-produced tick repellent which it hopes will be a highly-effective agent against the ticks that transmit Lyme disease.

 

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