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Media opportunity: Dalhousie University researchers find that female ticks carrying Lyme disease are better able to withstand winter's frigid temperatures, raising the possibility of an accelerated population increase in summer
Winter used to offer a reprieve from the irritation and potential health risks associated with certain species of ticks -- the leggy arachnids that are tough to kill and can carry a host of diseases.
Sub-zero temperatures were thought to reduce their survival rates, tamp down their numbers and limit their northern ranges.
New research out of Dalhousie University shows, however, that female Ixodes scapularis ticks -- more commonly known as deer ticks -- infected with the pathogen that causes Lyme disease are more likely to survive the winter than uninfected female ticks.
Shelley Adamo, a professor in Dal's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and her colleagues collected ticks on Nova Scotia's south shore and monitored their overwintering abilities in forests and dune grasses from 2018 to 2021. They found that infected ticks had greater survival rates compared to uninfected ticks for three consecutive winters, raising questions as to whether the presence of the pathogen makes them able to tolerate the cold.
Dr. Adamo, whose findings are published in Insect Science, is available to discuss the results and how these ticks' ability to survive winters could increase their population and expand their range farther north.
Senior Research Reporter
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