High-Resolution Ecological Niche Modeling of Ixodes scapularis Ticks Based on Passive Surveillance Data at the Northern Frontier of Lyme Disease Emergence in North America
Soucy Jean-Paul R., Slatculescu Andreea M., Nyiraneza Christine, Ogden Nicholas H., Leighton Patrick A., Kerr Jeremy T., and Kulkarni Manisha A.
Published Online:1 May 2018https://doi.org/10.1089/vbz.2017.2234
Background: Lyme disease (LD) is a bacterial infection transmitted by the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in eastern North America. It is an emerging disease in Canada due to the expanding range of its tick vector. Environmental risk maps for LD, based on the distribution of the black-legged tick, have focused on coarse determinants such as climate. However, climatic factors vary little within individual health units, the level at which local public health decision-making takes place. We hypothesize that high-resolution environmental data and routinely collected passive surveillance data can be used to develop valid models for tick occurrence and provide insight into ecological processes affecting tick presence at fine scales.
Methods: We used a maximum entropy algorithm (MaxEnt) to build a habitat suitability model for I. scapularis in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada using georeferenced occurrence points from passive surveillance data collected between 2013 and 2016 and high-resolution land cover and elevation data. We evaluated our model using an independent tick presence/absence dataset collected through active surveillance at 17 field sites during the summer of 2017.
Results: Our model showed a good ability to discriminate positive sites from negative sites for tick presence (AUC = 0.878 ± 0.019, classification accuracy = 0.835 ± 0.020). Heavily forested suburban and rural areas in the west and southwest of Ottawa had higher predicted suitability than the more agricultural eastern areas.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the value of passive surveillance data to model local-scale environmental risk for the tick vector of LD at sites of interest to public health. Given the rising incidence of LD and other emerging vector-borne diseases in Canada, our findings support the ongoing collection of these data and collaboration with researchers to provide a timely and accurate portrait of evolving public health risk.
Just remember ticks can be everywhere and the high infection rates reflect that. We can map ticks all the day long but at the end of the day it’s all about knowing they are moving into turf they’ve never been documented in before.