Massachusetts

MIT Researchers Propose Fighting Lyme on Nantucket with Mice

The Brant Point Lighthouse in Nantucket, Massachusetts
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Scientists at MIT are proposing releasing hordes of genetically altered mice on the posh vacation destination of Nantucket to combat the growing scourge of Lyme disease.

Researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab’s Mice Against Ticks project explained their plan to residents of the island off Cape Cod at a recent meeting, The Boston Globe reports.

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The scientists said hundreds of thousands of native white-footed mice engineered to resist the bacteria that causes Lyme could help slow disease transmission. They say if Lyme were less prevalent among mice, then fewer ticks would contract the disease, leading to less cases among humans.

The proposal would require review from regulators, not to mention local support, but Joanna Buchthal, the project’s research director, argues the idea offers a “real, if revolutionary, way” to address the disease.

“With so many people suffering from Lyme every single day, which is an awful disease, we need a solution urgently,” she told the newspaper.

Nantucket is one of Massachusetts’ hot spots for Lyme disease, which is now the most common infectious disease on the island, the Globe reports.

Incidents of Lyme disease have nearly doubled nationwide since 1991, with Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire registering the highest increases, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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