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Center of Excellence for Field Biology investigates Lyme disease

The Center of Excellence for Field Biology at Austin Peay is working in conjunction with Middle Tennessee State University to investigate whether true Lyme disease exists in Tennessee.

The work is being funded through a National Science Foundation grant to MTSU.

The Center has a three-year, $15,000 subcontract with MTSU to collect turkey blood and ticks for research on the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. The disease is carried by Ixodes ticks, more commonly known as deer ticks or blacklegged ticks
The Center of Excellence for Field Biology at Austin Peay is working in conjunction with Middle Tennessee State University to investigate whether true Lyme disease exists in Tennessee.

The work is being funded through a National Science Foundation grant to MTSU.

The Center has a three-year, $15,000 subcontract with MTSU to collect turkey blood and ticks for research on the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. The disease is carried by Ixodes ticks, more commonly known as deer ticks or blacklegged ticks

“In the South, we have bacterium that has been called Borrelia lonestari, which is associated with our common Lonestar tick,” says Dr. Steven Hamilton, professor of biology at APSU. “Some believe it is a different species from Borrelia burgdorferi and that it is associated with a disease called Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI).”

The Center's investigation seeks to determine whether true Lyme disease or STARI exists in Tennessee. Faculty and students in the Center also will study the role of birds in the distribution of both diseases.

Under Hamilton's supervision, Center undergraduate assistants Amber McBride and Justin Slivensky collect turkey blood for research at Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency check-in stations from birds harvested during turkey season, as well as birds trapped by local game officers. They have collected more than 60 samples, which will be analyzed at MTSU.

In addition, the APSU team will collect and identify the ticks collected before sending them to MTSU. “We will have data on the abundance and densities of various species of ticks,” says Hamilton. “Since ticks carry a number of diseases, it's good to know what species we have in our area, as well as their densities.”
—Rebecca Mackey