Chalmers Conferences, 9th European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology

Incorporating environmental factors into tick-borne disease models
Adrian Worton

Last modified: 2014-03-28


The Ixodes ricinus tick, also known as the sheep tick, is the most important vectors of disease-causing pathogens in Europe. In Scotland two of the most prevalent tick-borne diseases are Louping-ill and Lyme borreliosis. Louping-ill affects grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) and sheep (Ovis aries), both of which are of economic importance in Scotland, whilst cases of Lyme disease amongst humans are increasing in many parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom. The population of I. ricinus is largely dictated by environmental factors, the three most influential being temperature, habitat and host density. Climate change and other environmental changes such as woodland expansion and changes in wildlife management are likely to impact on I. ricinus and disease risk. It is crucial to be able to forecast the impacts of these changes, in order to aid disease mitigation and control.
Here we use a mathematical modelling approach to explore how changes in temperature, hosts and habitat may change I. ricinus tick abundance and disease risk. The environment-dependent model consists of a series of differential equations, which simulates the tick lifecycle through each instar. By simulating this model across Scotland, the effect of various environmental scenarios can be explored.
Here we will present the model assumptions and the initial findings in terms of predictions of current tick densities across Scotland and how this would vary under different climate change scenarios.


environmental change; Ixodes ricinus; Louping-ill; Lyme borreliosis; sheep tick; tick-borne disease;