Voters to decide on intro of altered mice to combat Lyme

A plan to release tens of thousands of genetically-modified mice on Nantucket to combat tick-borne diseases will have to pass muster with a group of the island’s most grueling critics – Town Meeting voters – before it can be implemented.

“I don’t think it would be fair for us to make that decision,” Board of Health chairman Malcolm MacNab said. “We could make a rational decision for sure, but the project will not be successful unless it is accepted by the island.”

While a vote is not expected any time soon, perhaps in five to 10 years if all goes according to plan, researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are plugging away in a laboratory identifying Lyme-disease-immune genes in white-footed mice with the hope of inserting that gene into other mice, breeding them by the thousands and releasing them on Nantucket to slow the spread of the disease that infects hundreds of people on the island every year.

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