UMass lab testing ticks to research spread of disease

Researchers looking into what diseases ticks are carrying, where they are most numerous

Photo Courtesy: WTNH

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – UMass Amherst’s Tick Testing Lab has joined a national project to research what diseases these insects can carry across the country.

Microbiology Professor Dr. Stephen Rich explained to 22News that there is no current research that pinpoints where a majority of ticks are. That is what their team is looking into now.

UMass was given $112,000 annually for two years to test thousands of ticks across 47 locations nationwide. They will conduct DNA testing on three pathogens to understand why they carry illnesses such as Lyme disease.

22News asked Dr. Rich what makes the ticks in Massachusetts unique.

“We’re finding pathogens that we didn’t know – well, we knew they were there, we just didn’t know how abundant they were. We find in some cases that people are getting sick from getting exposed to those, so we write those up in case studies and medical journals, for example,” Rich said.

He told 22News that Massachusetts is approaching the peak of adult tick season right now. It lasts until May, and then comes back around October.

If you find a tick, you are encouraged to send it UMass, dead or alive, to help them with their research. For more information about how to do so, visit the lab’s website.