Gibson Island Studies

(Also see follow up study below)

Bull World Health Organ. 2001; 79(10): 916–925.

PMCID: PMC2566683

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Risk of Lyme disease: perceptions of residents of a Lone Star tick-infested community.

P. M. Armstrong, L. R. Brunet, A. Spielman, and S. R. Telford, 3rd

Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston MA, USA.

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.


BACKGROUND: Lone Star ticks (Amblyomma americanum) have been suggested as a vector of the agent of Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato) in the USA, based on associations with an infection manifesting mainly as erythema migrans. In laboratory experiments, however, they failed to transmit B. burgdorferi sensu stricto.

METHODS: In this study, carried out from 1994 to 1996, we determined the seroprevalences of B. burgdorferi (1.2%), Ehrlichia chaffeensis (7%), E. phagocytophila (0%), Rickettsia rickettsii (0%), R. typhi (0%), Coxiella burneti (0%), Francisella tularensis (0%), and Babesia microti (0%) by standard serological methods for 325 residents (97% of the total population) of Gibson Island, coastal Maryland, USA, where 15% of the residents reported having had Lyme disease within a recent 5-year span.

FINDINGS: Of the 167 seronegative individuals who were followed up prospectively for 235 person-years of observation, only 2 (0.85%) seroconverted for B. burgdorferi. Of 1556 ticks submitted from residents, 95% were identified as Lone Star ticks; only 3% were deer ticks (Ixodes dammini), the main American vector of Lyme disease. B. burgdorferi s.s. infected 20% of host-seeking immature deer ticks, and borreliae ("B. lonestari") were detected in 1-2% of Lone Star ticks.

Erythema migrans was noted in 65% of self-reports of Lyme disease, but many such reports indicated that the rash was present while the tick was still attached, suggesting a reaction to the bite itself rather than true Lyme disease. Sera from individuals reporting Lyme disease generally failed to react to B. burgdorferi or any other pathogen antigens.

CONCLUSION: The residents of Gibson Island had an exaggerated perception of the risk of Lyme disease because they were intensely infested with an aggressively human-biting and irritating nonvector tick.

In addition, a Lyme disease mimic of undescribed etiology (named Masters' disease) seems to be associated with Lone Star ticks, and may confound Lyme disease surveillance. The epidemiological and entomological approach used in this study might fruitfully be applied wherever newly emergent tickborne zoonoses have been discovered.

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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2009 Aug;9(4):417-21.

Sustained control of Gibson Island, Maryland, populations of Ixodes scapularis and Amblyomma americanum (Acari: Ixodidae) by community-administered 4-Poster deer self-treatment bait stations.

Carroll JF, Pound JM, Miller JA, Kramer M.

Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Maryland 20705, USA.


In 1998, twenty-five 4-Poster deer treatment bait stations were deployed on Gibson Island (GI), Maryland, as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Northeast Area-Wide Tick Control Project. Treatments concluded in June 2002, having achieved 80% and 99.5% control of blacklegged ticks, Ixodes scapularis, and lone star ticks, Amblyomma americanum, respectively. No area-wide tick control was attempted again on the island until 2003, when 15 Dandux-manufactured 4-Posters were purchased by the GI Corporation and operated until the present. Annual flagging at sites on the island and a similar untreated area on the nearby mainland in May and June from 1998 to 2007 has demonstrated that populations of host-seeking nymphs of both tick species have remained at consistently low levels on the island during GI Corporation administration of the 4-Posters, in spite of 40% fewer 4-Posters and increased deer density during 2003-2007.

PMID: 19650736 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Last Updated- April 2019

Lucy Barnes