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An Eye-Opening Study: 16,000 Ticks in Less than Two Years

PLOS One just released a new tick study done by Nathan Nieto, a microbiologist at the North Arizona University, and he could never have done it without a large group of interested and concerned citizens. Between August of 2016 and January of 2017, Nieto asked the public to send any tick that they pulled off of themselves into his lab at NAU. He could test the ticks and would send information and a pathology report back to the sender if necessary.

He expected to receive about 2,400, but instead, he received 16,000 ticks, from 49 states and Puerto Rico.

What a wealth of information! But why ask for this when scientists survey ticks all over the country all the time? According to Nieto, science can study ticks in their local habitat, but it doesn’t necessarily answer which ticks bite humans, how many people get sick from bites, or risk potential of infection. This real life study brought more of that information to the table. It also brought some things that were unexpected.

Tick Study Results

For Nieto, this study was to show how using the everyday man could help fill in the gaps that scientists couldn’t cover. It shows the risks in real life and real time. He believes that more tests like this could help improve the understanding of the tick-borne diseases, how long it takes people to get sick, and even be predictive of future tick seasons.

When the ticks were sent to the lab they identified the type of tick and tested for 4 different pathogens, including Lyme disease. They then sent the report back to the person that submitted the tick. Within this process, they found a few really interesting things. They found that they received some ticks that were simply rare, though not disease carrying. They found ticks capable of carrying Lyme disease in 83 counties that had never recorded Lyme before. They found Lone Star ticks, expected to live mostly in the southeast, from Maine all the way across to California. Without the help of the everyday man, these are the types of things that are difficult to discover.

Katharine Walter, an epidemiologist at Stanford University who has studied tick-borne disease but did not participate in this study, believes that this kind of project on a bigger scale could give real insight into disease, climate change, and human impact on the environment. “It’s a great example of using citizen science to ask questions about the ecology of infectious disease….that’s the power of science, I really believe that scientific research shouldn’t be just for scientists,” Walter says.

Every day there is more to learn and more is learned. Mosquito Squad of Franklin & Framingham brings it to you because we know our clients, our families, share in the desire to learn and help just as those that participated in this study did. Even as the citizen, as the everyday person, we have as much to offer as we have to learn. Each and every one of us.

To learn more ways to be a part of the collective protection community give us a call. There is always more to learn.