Researchers at Mount Allison University are combining their expertise to provide a comprehensive approach to Lyme disease research in an effort to shed some light on the disease.
Mount Allison biologist Vett Lloyd will be spearheading the new research into Lyme disease, alongside 13 other researchers, eight of them students. The group has formed the “Lyme Research Network,” which will develop, research, and share findings on Lyme disease.
“Within a few years, the Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that half of the Canadian population will be living in areas with a high risk of Lyme disease,” Lloyd said.
Lyme disease is an inflammatory infection that spreads to humans through tick bites and is difficult to diagnose. With global warming, the tick population has steadily been increasing, he said.
“We’re seeing more ticks, we’re seeing different species of ticks, and we’re seeing them starting earlier and ending later in the season,” he said.
Last year, 15 per cent of ticks analyzed were found to carry Lyme disease, an alarming rate according to Lloyd.
“Let’s say that it’s 20 per cent, that means that if you get bit by a tick, four times out of five times you’re going to be OK, that’s a bit better odds then playing Russian roulette,” Lloyd added.
Researchers working on this project come from various disciplines, including biology and chemistry, but also psychology, philosophy, and economics.
Funding towards this research totals roughly $85,000 in the first year. Though this may not sound like much, the university says other factors need to be taken into account.
“We’ve gotten money from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which has allowed us to buy infrastructure, which we can then use for projects like this,” said Jeff Ollerhead, vice president of research at Mount Allison.
Some of the network’s research projects taking place this summer include identifying new ticks, exploring potential tick repellents, and examining those dealing with Lyme disease.
“This is a nasty, nasty disease. It affects every organ of the body and it’s hard to diagnose, so you really don’t want to get it,” concluded Lloyd.