Gamebird management and Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the Northern hemisphere; currently more than 1500 cases are recorded in the UK each year. Evidence suggests that Pheasants are competent hosts for the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the causative agent for Lyme disease, and it’s vector, the sheep tick Ixodes ricinus. However, the role of gamebird management in Lyme disease dynamics in the UK (where 31 million pheasants are released each year) is currently unknown.

This project, a collaboration with the UK Health Security Agency, aims to determine how gamebird release and management influences Lyme disease dynamics, and if so, through which mechanisms. Furthermore, we aim to better understand the impact of Borrelia infection on gamebird health, and the potential economic implications. Addressing these knowledge gaps could facilitate the development of management solutions which align with the interests of industry stakeholders and have positive public health outcomes. More broadly, this project will contribute to our understanding of the role of invasive species in disease dynamics outside of their native ranges.

Research Team

Emile Michels (University of Exeter)

Dr Barbara Tschirren (University of Exeter)

Professor Robbie McDonald (University of Exeter)

Dr Jolyon Medlock (Public Health England)

Dr Sarah Perkins (University of Cardiff)