University of New Hampshire researchers awarded grant to further tick tracking
Researchers from the New England Council member, the University of New Hampshire (UNH), have been awarded a grant from the U.S. Geological Survey to implement a surveillance system for tracking rising tick populations and tick-borne illnesses.
The effort comes in response to drastic increases in tick-borne diseases across New England over the past decade, especially in places like New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. These pose a significant risk to the health and safety of humans and animals alike. Additionally, data on tick varieties, population concentrations, and pathogen prevalence is very limited.
As a result, UNH, working with other regional colleges, is making expansive efforts to categorize and document tick appearances across Northern New England. This will include DNA and RNA extraction from ticks themselves, as well as a study of host blood found in the tested ticks. The specificity of such a task will be difficult but worthwhile, especially as the variety of local ticks expands with an influx of invasive new species.
“That DNA will be sequenced to understand the diversity of the ticks, their hosts and to identify known and unknown potential pathogens,” said W. Kelley Thomas, director of UNH’s Hubbard Center for Genome Studies. “Ultimately, the data we generate can help inform public health efforts and it will serve as a key warning system to pet owners, livestock producers and the general populace.”
The New England Council commends the University of New Hampshire for its efforts to prevent the spread of diseases across the region.
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