The University of New Haven established Lyme disease research 8 years ago. To date, over 90 graduate students have received training in Lyme disease related research. The Lyme disease research group has identified an alarming increase in the co-infection rate in deer ticks, including discovery of novel co-infections such as mycoplasma and microfilarial nematode species.
In the last several years the Lyme research group has received several extramural grant supports from the Turn the Corner Foundation, Lyme Disease Association, Lyme Research Alliance and Californian Lyme Disease Association which will allow the group to investigate novel ideas for Lyme disease research.
The University of New Haven has held five National Lyme Disease Symposiums during the last several years (2006-2011) with over 200 attendees/each symposium. In the Fall of 2007, our research group began one of the largest tick counting and Borrelia testing surveys in the North East (testing over 50 sites in Fairfield County). The uniqueness of this survey is that the tick collection is being done at school yards, public parks and playgrounds, to evaluate exposure of our children to tick borne diseases. We have collected ~2500 deer tick samples and tested ~1500 samples for Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) infection. The overall Bb infection rate was 72%, ranging from 51%-94%.
The group also studies different forms of Borrelia bacteria to better understand how Borrelia can hide from the immune system and from different therapies. For example, our research group demonstrated that Borrelia is capable of forming a protective layer around itself – called biofilm – which could render it to be very resistant to antibiotics and provide a logical explanation as to why extensive antibiotic treatment for patients with a tick-bite history could fail.
Our final goal is to better understand Borrelia survival mechanisms, and ultimately to provide new research information for the chronic Lyme debate.
A video file showing a vertical protrusion on the surface of the Borrelia burgdorferi B31 stain biofilm using AFM composite images.