According to a new research study conducted by a team of scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, birds, especially those that live in our backyard, can carry the bacterium Borrelia burdorferi, which is the parasite that causes the Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is often transmitted to humans by infected ticks and their bites.
Although experts have linked the spreading of Lyme disease to small mammals like squirrels and wood rats, the latest study shows that birds are actually responsible for carrying and transmitting the disease.
Erica Newman, one of the researchers involved in the study, explained that the link between Lyme disease and birds has been poorly understood until now.
According to Newman, this is the most comprehensive study to analyze the role that birds have in Lyme disease ecology, especially in the western parts of the United States.
Also, the study is the first to analyze which of the bird species are responsible of carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Professor Newman is a PhD student at the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley.
The study identifies some of the Lyme disease carrying birds as the American robin, the dark-eyed juncos and the golden crowned sparrow. All three bird species live mostly and in a great number in suburban areas.
In order to come to this conclusion, the scientists analyzed samples collected from birds and ticks from four different parts of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in northwest California.
The results suggest that 57 of the 100 birds with ticks were also carriers of Lyme disease.
Morgan Tingley, an ornithologist who was not involved in the study, explains that birds are more capable of carrying a disease long distances than mammals that are often associated as carriers of Lyme disease.
Tingley added that in the future birds could play an important role in the disease ecology, compared to other species because they have the ability of reaching (flying) faster and easier to new habitats.
Scientists have detailed their findings in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Image Source: animalspot