University of Idaho Leads $6 million Study of Lyme Disease

 A research team with the University of Idaho will take the lead in a major nearly $6 million cooperative agreement designed to better prevent and respond to the surging numbers of tick-borne illnesses in the United States.

The four-year, $6 million National Science Foundation study will see researchers design a data framework that will help track the spread of illnesses linked to tick bites. Teams are particularly focused on the spread of disease east-to-west across the U.S., according to the University.

“The thing about tick data is, once you get out of the Midwest and East Coast, these data are very sparse,” said Lucas Sheneman, grant participant and director of U of I’s data management center, the Northwest Knowledge Network. “Databases that are out there are so siloed, they don’t communicate with each other. What we’re proposing is developing one comprehensive data framework to offer compatible resources to scientists and the general public.”

There will also be student groups at U of I’s Polymorphic Games studio working to put together a video game, among other educational resources, designed to reach K-12 students about risks and safety connected to tick-borne illnesses. Lyme disease and other tick-related illnesses disproportionately affect children ages 5 through 10.

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A New Infectious Tick-Borne Disease In China

A new infectious disease caused by a tick-borne virus has killed seven people and infected 60 others in China, official media here reported on Wednesday, warning about the possibility of its human-to-human transmission.

More than 37 people in East China’s Jiangsu Province contracted with the SFTS Virus in the first half of the year. Later, 23 people were found to have been infected in East China’s Anhui province, state-run Global Times quoted media reports.

SFTS Virus is not a new virus. China has isolated pathogen of the virus in 2011, and it belongs to the Bunyavirus category.

Virologists believe that the infection may have been passed on to humans by ticks and that the virus can be transmitted between humans, it said.

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Symptoms Overlap

With the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus still spreading across the country, some experts worry about the overlap between COVID-19 and Lyme disease, which is caused by a bacterium carried by black-legged ticks. While it’s too soon to know exactly how the pandemic will affect Lyme disease rates this year, experts like Brinkerhoff wonder if more people spending time outside beating the quarantine blues could lead to more people being exposed to disease-carrying ticks. Some overlapping symptoms might also lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment of Lyme, he notes.

At the same time, weather patterns in some parts of the country may actually lead to fewer Lyme disease cases this year. No matter the broader trends, there are things anyone getting outside can do to protect themselves from ticks.

Read the full article from Discover magazine!

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Pathogens Manipulating Tick Behavior

Pathogens can manipulate the phenotypic traits of their hosts and vectors, maximizing their own fitness. Among the phenotypic traits that can be modified, manipulating vector behavior represents one of the most fascinating facets. How pathogens infection affects behavioral traits of key insect vectors has been extensively investigated. Major examples include PlasmodiumLeishmania and Trypanosoma spp. manipulating the behavior of mosquitoes, sand flies and kissing bugs, respectively. However, research on how pathogens can modify tick behavior is patchy. This review focuses on current knowledge about the behavioral changes triggered by AnaplasmaBorreliaBabesiaBartonellaRickettsia and tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) infection in tick vectors, analyzing their potential adaptive significance. As a general trend, being infected by Borrelia and TBEV boosts tick mobility (both questing and walking activity). Borrelia and Anaplasma infection magnifies Ixodes desiccation resistance, triggering physiological changes (Borrelia: higher fat reserves; Anaplasma: synthesis of heat shock proteins). Anaplasma infection also improves cold resistance in infected ticks through synthesis of an antifreeze glycoprotein. Being infected by AnaplasmaBorrelia and Babesia leads to increased tick survival. BorreliaBabesia and Bartonella infection facilitates blood engorgement. In the last section, current challenges for future studies are outlined. View Full-Text


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Overlook Estate Foundation helps advance research into Lyme disease

Dr. Brian Leydet of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry sees a connection between the environment and disease that may be mitigated with conservation measures that include humans in the equation. Lydet is researching that connection on the Overlook Farm, a 400-acre property in Waverly, Pennsylvania owned by Mort and Sue Fuller who are conserving the land in a natural way.Leydet’s work employs Lyme disease as a model of a public health concern that has a significant environmental component, he said. For Leydet, the location provides the perfect spot for his research due to the number of ticks on the property. “If you’re going to think about long-term planning and conservation, then you should probably think about what that’s going to do to tick populations and your risk for disease,” said Leydet.Specifically, Leydet is concerned about how modifications to habitat trickle down to the tick population and in turn, Lyme disease in humans.

Learn more about how we should sculpt environments that keep infection and Lyme disease down here.

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Weaponized Cirtus

The E.P.A. has approved nootkatone, a safe and effective tick repellent found in cedars and grapefruit. It repels ticks, mosquitoes and other dangerous bugs for hours, but is safe enough to eat. This has added a new weapon to the fight against insect-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and malaria.

Diseases caused by the bites of ticks, mosquitoes and fleas have tripled in the United States in the last 15 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a 2018 report. They include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever from ticks; West Nile, dengue, Zika and chikungunya from mosquitoes; and plague from fleas.

The chemical repels mosquitoes, ticks, bedbugs and fleas — and, in high concentrations, kills them, according to the C.D.C. It may also be effective against lice, sandflies, midges and other pests, some of which can carry lethal diseases.

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TOUCHED BY LYME: House approves increased funding for Lyme disease

The House of Representatives approved a minibus package of spending bills on Friday, including 20 million dollars for Lyme research and prevention for the fiscal year of 2021, a 43% increase over this year, representing nearly half of the 42 million dollars allocated by the bill to combat vector-borne illnesses overall. The bill will likely not be taken up by the Senate until after the election, but this is still a good day for Lyme patients. 

Project Lyme is a charter member of Center For Lyme Action, the Advocacy group that was behind this effort.

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What happens when coronavirus and Lyme disease intersect? It’s a scary time for patients

With overlapping symptoms and a ferocious tick season already upon us, we’re in for a confusing — and dangerous — summer. Read how Project Lyme Board Member Isabel Rose advises you protect yourself this tick season.

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‘She’s Being Discriminated Against’: League Says Two-Time MVP’s Health Issues Not Serious Enough For Opt-Out

Elena Delle Donne’s request to opt out of the upcoming season was denied. Project Lyme was reached for a statement on why disinformation from the CDC is detrimental to the Lyme community.

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NIH strategic research plan addresses growing tickborne diseases threat

The incidence of reported cases of tickborne diseases in the United States has significantly increased in recent years. It is expected to continue to grow as tick species expand their geographical reach and new tick-transmitted pathogens emerge, raising the potential for serious human illness and death. A new strategic research plan from the National Institutes of Health aims to build on — and accelerate — new and existing research initiatives to improve scientific understanding of ticks and the pathogens they may transmit and to develop the necessary tools and strategies to better diagnose, prevent and treat tickborne diseases.

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