Sunday, August 19, 2012

0 Lyme Disease Is For The Birds

A hat tip goes to the the bird-banding team stationed at the Auburn Sportsman’s Club in Auburn, Massachusetts. This little-known group of volunteers has toiled for tens of thousands of hours every spring and fall to collect ticks from birds around the region and submit them for analysis for the presence of tickborne diseases.

A recent article in the Worcester Telegram, "Outdoors: Lyme disease research is paying off", written by bird-banding researcher, Mark Blazis, outlines the history of studying ticks found on birds for evidence that birds play a vital role in the spread of Borrelia burgdorferi strains throughout the northeastern US.

In the early 1990's, Mark speculated that birds played a huge role in the sudden spread inland of Lyme disease, and predicted his research would provide evidence of why the disease suddenly erupted in Central Massachusetts.

He was right.

Over the years, in tandem with the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Harvard School of Public Health, Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, and Yale's School of Public Health, the bird-banding team discovered that there was an increase in the presence of Lyme disease in birds along the increasingly humid coast and that multiple strains of Borrelia burgdorferi were being carried by ticks on birds.

One notable passage from the article is about the possible impact of these different strains:

"Most recently, Yale School of Public Health Lyme disease research leader Dr. Maria Diuk-Wasser and her associates, Dr. Jory Brinkerhoff and Dr. Corrie Folsom, have partnered with us thanks to a link established by Mary Sharkey, one of our Connecticut banding assistants. The Diuk-Wasser lab has been involved in cutting-edge DNA analysis of Lyme disease bacteria in birds, supporting the notion that there are several strains of the bacteria.

That conclusion has many important human health implications. It could explain why people have different reactions to the bacteria. Different strains could have different virulences that might benefit from different modes of treatment."

More can be read on the Worcester Telegram's web site:

Special thanks goes out to all those hard working bird-banding researchers in the field:

Helen Blazis, Susan Finnegan, Tom and Stephanie Donaldson, Dr. Richard Weagle, Keith and Kim MacAdams, Jill and Gary Hetel, Mary Sharkey, Mattie Vandenboom, Brian and David Sheridan, Sarah Reich, Dr. Laurence Reich, Myrt Morin, Michael Contois, Ed Banks, John White, Dan Semenuk, Craig Anderson, Ken and Justin Dion, Lois Kolofsky, Dr. Stephen Vincent, Theresa Walcott and Nancy Best.

Thank you for bringing us a step closer to understanding the spread of Lyme disease and awareness of the different strains present in our environment.


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