July 20, 2024
New genome heralds change in Lyme disease fight
With the genome in hand, the scientists are interested in pursuing several potential avenues for preventing Lyme disease transmission.
With the genome in hand, the scientists are interested in pursuing several potential avenues for preventing Lyme disease transmission.

As Lyme disease increases, researchers have taken a significant step toward finding new ways to prevent its transmission. The experts, who include a pioneer in Lyme disease discovery, have sequenced the genome of the animal carrying the bacteria that causes the illness. The advance by researchers at the University of California, Irvine and colleagues provides a launching pad for fresh approaches to stopping Lyme disease from infecting people.

Results of their study appear today in Science Advances.

The scientists dedicated four years to decoding the genetic makeup of the white-footed mouse Peromyscus leucopus, which harbors the Lyme disease-causing bacteria. Unlike mice that scurry into human homes, these rodents inhabit forests, shrubbery and wetlands. People become infected when a tick bites them after feeding on a white-footed mouse carrying the bacteria.

“Many efforts to combat Lyme disease have focused on trying to control those ticks, but they have been difficult to put in practice,” said Lyme disease pioneer Alan Barbour, M.D. “So we decided that instead we should look at the animal carrying it.”

Barbour co-discovered Borreliella burgdorferi, the bacteria causing the illness. He is a professor of medicine and microbiology & molecular genetics for the UCI School of Medicine.

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