Living with Lyme: Upstate Tick Testing Program tracks alarming trend

Living with Lyme

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, but researchers with Upstate University’s Tick Testing Program work year-round. They study ticks and keep track of which viruses they carry in our area.

They’re small and easy to miss, but the epidemic they’re causing is too big to ignore.

“They are appearing in new counties that before never recorded that,” said Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Dr. Saravanan Thangamani.

Thangamani is on the front lines of a major research program. Inside his lab, they study ticks New Yorkers send in after finding them latched onto their body.

The trend they’re tracking is alarming.

It’s not just the number of ticks that is high. The pathogen prevalence in the tick is very high as well. There is almost a 10 percent increase in the number of ticks that carry the Borrelia Burgdorferi, the Lyme disease agent. And it’s almost, it’s the same for the Anaplasmosis causing agent.

Saravanan Thangamani

Ehrlichia, Babesiosis — they’re different debilitating infections these researchers are finding in ticks that are migrating through Central New York and towards the Canadian border.

“We use this data to understand where the hot spots are emerging,” Thangamani said.

The data can help you and your doctor. If a tick tests positive for a pathogen and you have no symptoms, they’ll think differently about your diagnosis. It can help you get treatment before it’s too late.

“Majority of them may not get the bullseye rash. If one can diagnose a tickborne disease very early, the treatment can be more effective. Once they missed the early treatment, that’s when sometimes the treatment may not be effective.”

Saravanan Thangamani

The work inside the Thangamani Lab hopes to get ahead. They’re receiving about 100 ticks a day to track ticks and trends and put these bugs on your radar. Hoping one day, his research will outrun the ticks.

If you do find a tick on you, you can mail it to the lab for testing. There’s a three to five day turnaround time for testing once the tick is in their lab.

To learn how to send one in, visit their website.

If you would like to donate to the research program, click here.

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