In 2014, there were close to 8,000 confirmed and probable combined cases of Lyme disease in Massachusetts and the tick population appears to be steadily on the rise. These are just two of the reasons that the discovery of a Lyme vaccination could be considered nothing short of a miracle.
Let us not forget that deer ticks are small and often hard to detect making it easy to contract Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease can lead to debilitating chronic Lyme, where your symptoms linger long after you’ve been treated. Few people in Southeastern Massachusetts don’t know someone whose life has been affected negatively by Lyme disease. It is these facts that point to prevention as the best solution for tick-borne illnesses, and what could be better prevention than a vaccine?
What Makes the Deer Tick, Tick?
Catherine Hill, an entomologist at Purdue University, along with a team of 93 scientists from 46 institutions around the world have spent the last ten years studying ticks and piecing together the deer tick’s genome map. The genome map takes all the genetic material and DNA in an organism and pieces it together. So basically it’s a way of figuring out what makes the tick “tick”. These scientists have discovered that 20% of the genetic makeup of a tick are completely unique to them. They’ve also been able to further understand how they smell, taste, and move about.
Deer Tick Genome Mapping Opens the Door To New Prevention
So what does all this mean? First it means that scientists can use this information to create pesticides more precise to the deer tick. By focusing on its target, they can be less harmful to other organisms. Second, and more exciting, it means that the possibility of vaccines for tick-borne illnesses are real. The genome tells us that ticks have developed immunity to many of the pathogens they carry. This information can be used in the creation of vaccines, which is certainly a light at the end of the tunnel that is the Lyme disease epidemic.