Pilot Program at Upstate Medical University looks to create tick blocking vaccine

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Researchers at Upstate Medical University are trying to get ahead of ticks before they get to you.

Professor Saravanan Thangamani and his team have created a human skin explant system. They place a tick or mosquito carrying viruses on the skin and watch how it infects it.

“What happens when the tick delivers Powassan virus into the skin? You know, that’s our overall objective of the lab,” said Thangamani.

The team behind this pilot program is studying how these insects spread each virus and eventually hope to develop vaccines to prevent it from happening altogether.

Professor Thangamani says they’re trying to develop two vaccines.

An anti-tick vaccine in such a way that when someone gets this vaccine, ticks will not be able to feed on them. They will try to attach but they will not be able to feed on them. The second goal is to develop transmission-blocking vaccines. If the Borrelia of the virus is not able to infect the skin, it will not be able to go into the different organs to cause the disease.

Professor Saravanan Thangamani

As more and more ticks carry debilitating diseases like Lyme and Powassan virus, Professor Thangamani says research like this, is crucial.

“Several of the diseases, we don’t even have any treatment at all, so the only way to prevent from getting diseases is not having tick bites,” he said.

Upstate Medical University’s Citizen Science Tick testing program is also active. If you find a tick on you or a pet you can send it in for testing.

The research helps scientists, doctors, and helps the rest of us know if our backyards are a tick haven.

Head to the lab’s website for detailed instructions on how to send in your tick.


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