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Biodiversity may lessen Lyme disease

The richer a region's array of lizard and small-mammal species, the less likely people are to catch Lyme disease, say New York researchers.

That's the pattern emerging from an 11-state area, say Richard S. Ostfeld of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook and Felicia Keesing of Siena College in Loudonville. The trend could provide a new reason to love biodiversity—it protects human health—they say in the June Conservation Biology.

The U.S. government logs between 12,000 and 17,000 cases of Lyme disease a year, making it the most common insect-borne disease in the United States. At least two species of Ixodes ticks spread it when they bite. The ticks typically hatch uninfected, but as they take one blood meal during each of their three later life stages, the ticks pick up bacteria.

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