Wednesday, September 21, 2011

0 An accident leads Yale scientists to tick-borne disease in Russia

The Connecticut Mirror has an article on the backstory behind discovering that Borrelia miyamotoi leads to infection in people:

An accident leads Yale scientists to tick-borne disease in Russia
http://www.ctmirror.org/story/13955/lyme-new-tick-borne-disease-yale

You've got to love this excerpt:
Fish's lab was studying Lyme disease transmission using ticks and mice, exposing ticks to mice that had been infected, and to others that had not. But the ticks exposed to uninfected mice appeared to be infected.

"I gave everybody in the lab hell for wasting a lot of time and resources and stuff, because they screwed up the experiment," said Fish, a professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health. "And they felt really bad and they couldn't understand how that happened."

In fact, the ticks had a different bacterial organism, not the one that causes Lyme, but a distant relation called Borrelia miyamotoi. It had been identified six years earlier in Japan, but no one knew if it caused illness in humans. Fish spent the better part of a decade trying to get funding to study it, with little success.

I guess I have these questions about this:

1) Has anything similar happened before in other experiments and we don't even know about it - this situation of having uninfected mice be infected by a different organism that is disease-causing?

2) Why wasn't there enough funding to study this? Who decides which projects get funded?

3) I noticed that Borrelia research at the NIH got a lot more funding in the past two years... What were the goals of the bulk of those projects?

I can probably find out the answer to #3 with some digging. The first two questions? Not as easy to answer.


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