Prevention of lyme and other tickborne diseases using a rodent-targeted approach: a randomized controlled trial in Connecticut.
Tickborne diseases are an increasing public health problem in the northeastern USA. Bait boxes that apply acaricide to rodents have been shown in small field studies to significantly reduce abundance of Ixodes scapularis ticks as well as their pathogen infection rates in treated areas. The effectiveness of this intervention for preventing human tickborne diseases (TBDs) has not been demonstrated. During 2012-2016, TickNET collaborators conducted a randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled trial among 622 Connecticut households. Each household received active (containing fipronil wick) or placebo (empty) bait boxes in their yards over two consecutive years. Information on tick encounters and TBDs among household members was collected through biannual surveys. Nymphal ticks were collected from a subset of 100 properties during spring at baseline, during treatment, and in the year post-intervention. Demographic and property characteristics did not differ between treatment groups. There were no significant differences post-intervention between treatment groups with respect to tick density or pathogen infection rates, nor for tick encounters or TBDs among household members. We found no evidence that rodent-targeted bait boxes disrupt pathogen transmission cycles or significantly reduce household risk of tick exposure or TBDs. The effectiveness of this intervention may depend on scale of use or local enzootic cycles.