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Immunology and Infectious Disease


Gordon Brown


Lyme disease currently affects approximately 300,000 people annually in the United States, but climate change threatens to increase this number. Rising temperatures, humidity, and levels of rainfall are impacting the relationship and interactions between the bacterium that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), its vectors, and associated hosts. Climate change models predict a northward expansion of these disease-carrying vectors and hosts into new territories in North America, as formerly unsuitable territories become more hospitable, most notably in Canada. Human exposure to the bacteria through the bite of an infected tick can lead to the characteristic symptoms of Lyme disease, such as a skin rash, fever, headache, chills and in severe cases encephalitis and polyneuropathy. Therefore, this public health concern will also expand to new populations and better mitigation strategies will be necessary.