Landscape features predict the current and forecast the future geographic spread of Lyme disease: Landscape predicts Lyme disease spread

Allison M. Gardner, Natalie C. Pawlikowski, Sarah A. Hamer, Graham J. Hickling, James R. Miller, Anna M. Schotthoefer, Jean I. Tsao, Brian F. Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lyme disease, the most prevalent vector-borne disease in North America, is increasing in incidence and geographic distribution as the tick vector, Ixodes scapularis, spreads to new regions. We re-construct the spatial-temporal invasion of the tick and human disease in the Midwestern US, a major focus of Lyme disease transmission, from 1967 to 2018, to analyse the influence of spatial factors on the geographic spread. A regression model indicates that three spatial factors-proximity to a previously invaded county, forest cover and adjacency to a river-collectively predict tick occurrence. Validation of the predictive capability of this model correctly predicts counties invaded or uninvaded with 90.6% and 98.5% accuracy, respectively. Reported incidence increases in counties after the first report of the tick; based on this modelled relationship, we identify 31 counties where we suspect I. scapularis already occurs yet remains undetected. Finally, we apply the model to forecast tick establishment by 2021 and predict 42 additional counties where I. scapularis will probably be detected based upon historical drivers of geographic spread. Our findings leverage resources dedicated to tick and human disease reporting and provide the opportunity to take proactive steps (e.g. educational efforts) to prevent and limit transmission in areas of future geographic spread.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20202278
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1941
StatePublished - Dec 23 2020


  • Ixodes scapularis
  • tick-borne disease
  • Lyme disease
  • invasion
  • Borrelia burgdorferi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Landscape features predict the current and forecast the future geographic spread of Lyme disease: Landscape predicts Lyme disease spread'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this