Peridomestic and community-wide landscape risk factors for Lyme disease across a range of community contexts in Pennsylvania

Katherine A. Moon, Jonathan Pollak, Melissa N. Poulsen, Annemarie G. Hirsch, Joseph DeWalle, Christopher D. Heaney, John N. Aucott, Brian S. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Land use and forest fragmentation are thought to be major drivers of Lyme disease incidence and its geographic distribution. We examined the association between landscape composition and configuration and Lyme disease in a population-based case control study in the Geisinger health system in Pennsylvania. Lyme disease cases (n = 9657) were identified using a combination of diagnosis codes, laboratory codes, and antibiotic orders from electronic health records (EHRs). Controls (5:1) were randomly selected and frequency matched on year, age, and sex. We measured six landscape variables based on prior literature, derived from the National Land Cover Database and MODIS satellite imagery: greenness (normalized difference vegetation index), percent forest, percent herbaceous, forest edge density, percent forest-herbaceous edge, and mean forest patch size. We assigned landscape variables within two spatial contexts (community and ½-mile [805 m] Euclidian residential buffer). In models stratified by community type, landscape variables were modeled as tertiles and flexible splines and associations were adjusted for demographic and clinical covariates. In general, we observed positive associations between landscape metrics and Lyme disease, except for percent herbaceous, where associations differed by community type. For example, compared to the lowest tertile, individuals with highest tertile of greenness in residential buffers had higher odds of Lyme disease (odds ratio: 95% confidence interval [CI]) in townships (1.73: 1.55, 1.93), boroughs (1.70: 1.40, 2.07), and cities (3.71: 1.74, 7.92). Similarly, corresponding odds ratios (95% CI) for forest edge density were 1.34 (1.22, 1.47), 1.56 (1.33, 1.82), and 1.90 (1.13, 3.18). Associations were generally higher in residential buffers, compared to community, and in cities, compared to boroughs or townships. Our results reinforce the importance of peridomestic landscape in Lyme disease risk, particularly measures that reflect human interaction with tick habitat. Linkage of EHR data to public data on residential and community context may lead to new health system-based approaches for improving Lyme disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108649
JournalEnvironmental research
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Forest fragmentation
  • Land cover
  • Lyme disease
  • Tick-borne disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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