Lyme disease is currently estimated to affect 300,000 people in the U.S. every year, and blacklegged ticks, the disease's main vector, have recently flourished in areas previously thought to be devoid of this arachnid.
A new study finds that the newly detected tick populations likely arose mainly from southern populations that migrated to nearby northern locations.
"The fine temporal and spatial scale of the samples analyzed allowed for precise estimates of the rate, timing, and direction of individual migratory events," said Dr. Camilo Khatchikian, lead author of the Evolution study. Dr. Dustin Brisson, senior author in the study added that "understanding the fine-scale migratory process is essential to interpret patterns of genetic variation across broad geographic regions."
Investigators can use the findings to help identify the factors that drive migration--some of which could be targeted to reduce populations and protect public health.