Nathan Nieto, assistant professor of microbiology at Northern Arizona University, has partnered with the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a nonprofit leader in Lyme disease research, to offer free tick testing across the country.
Nieto’s lab at NAU will accept ticks from anywhere in the United States to be tested for six bacterial infections including Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. Results will be available within five business days of receipt based on estimated volumes, and the data will be reported to the sender by email, as well as mapped, categorized and recorded.
The foundation hopes to use this crowd-sourced data as a vehicle for gaining a greater understanding of the geography of tick-borne diseases in the United States. If successful in accumulating data, it will be the first crowd-sourced study of its kind.
“This new initiative has the potential to gather extensive data on the geographic distribution and future expansion of ticks carrying pathogens that causes various diseases in humans, and could allow us the opportunity to better understand where in the U.S. we are at a greater risk of acquiring these diseases,” said Nieto, who cited climate change among other reasons that the risk of acquiring Lyme exists in areas outside the known endemic Northeast.
“A major challenge for the Lyme disease community is understanding the prevalence of Lyme disease bacteria in ticks throughout the U.S., so that physicians and residents can be appropriately vigilant to the symptoms of the disease,” said Laure Woods, president and co-founder of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. “With this effort, we intend to make it easier for people who have been bit by ticks, particularly in geographic areas where Lyme disease is not yet recognized as endemic, to understand their potential risk.”