NYMC Faculty Publications

The Impact of Strain-Specific Immunity on Lyme Disease Incidence is Spatially Heterogeneous

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Diagnostic microbiology and infectious disease

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Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most common tick-borne infection in the US. Recent studies have demonstrated that the incidence of human Lyme disease would have been even greater were it not for the presence of strain-specific immunity, which protects previously infected patients against subsequent infections by the same B. burgdorferi strain. Here, spatial heterogeneity is incorporated into epidemiological models to accurately estimate the impact of strain-specific immunity on human Lyme disease incidence. The estimated reduction in the number of Lyme disease cases is greater in epidemiologic models that explicitly include the spatial distribution of Lyme disease cases reported at the county level than those that utilize nationwide data. strain-specific immunity has the greatest epidemiologic impact in geographic areas with the highest Lyme disease incidence due to the greater proportion of people that have been previously infected and have developed strain-specific immunity.