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Lyme Lab

Lyme disease (LD) is a zoonotic tick-borne illness caused by the spirochetal bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and it is the most prevalent arthropod-borne infection in the United States. A total of 22,572 human cases of Lyme disease were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010. Dogs, cats, horses, and cattle can also suffer from LD. Infected tick vectors transmit the LD causative agent while biting humans and susceptible domestic animal species [1-3]. A significant increase in the number of reported cases has been observed in the past few years, classifying Lyme disease as a re-emerging infection. Lyme borreliosis is, therefore, an important public health issue particularly in endemic areas where it contributes to significant rates of morbidity. Lyme disease occurs as a multi-systemic disorder leading to carditis (10% of untreated adults), arthritis (60% of the cases) and other neurological symptoms. Moreover, there are few therapeutic solutions for Lyme disease patients and there are no effective vaccines available on the market.

Bb and mouse cells

Nevertheless the presence of Lyme disease in Texas is not clear. Even though there are about 100 LD cases reported to CDC every year, it is not well understood how the disease is distributed in Texas and what mammalian, reptile and/or bird species are involved in maintaining its enzootic cycle. There are many questions to answer and we would like to be part of the discovery process.

Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease is a gram-negative microaerophilic spirochaete that is transmitted to the mammalian host through the bite of an infected Ixodes ticks. The competent vector for the transmission of the disease to humans and companion animals described to date are

  • Ixodes scapularis: will transmit Lyme disease in most of the US
  • Ixodes pacificus: will transmit Lyme disease in the pacific coast
  • Ixodes ricinus: will transmit the disease in Europe
  • Ixodes persulcatus: will transmit the disease in Europe
Oxidative stress in Bb sodA KO

Our interest is mainly directed toward understanding the distribution of infected ticks in Texas as well as in the development of a pan-specific Lyme test for use in Veterinary medicine and surveillance programs. Putting these two efforts together our goal is to map the state of Texas to determine where are the high-risk areas for Lyme disease transmission. Moreover, we are interested in the identification of new vaccine targets to prevent Lyme disease. As part of this effort we are trying to sequence the gene expression of this bacterium at different time points during the infection process by means of Next Generation Sequencing such as the Ilumina technology. Visit our project section to find out more about these projects.