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Lyme Disease: A Community-Based Citizen Education Project

Lyme Disease (LD) is an emerging epidemic in the Upper Midwest. Early identification of LD symptoms is paramount to effective medical treatment; knowledge of symptoms, how LD spreads, and receiving immediate medical treatment if you have a bite or suspect you may have a bite. This NLM proposal enhances the previous Ixodes Outreach Project (IOP) at the University of Minnesota Medical School (UMMS) Duluth and was funded from 2017 - 2018 to develop a community-outreach program. The new proposed project, Lyme Disease: A Community-Based Citizen Education Project (LDCB) will continue with educational activities and the collection of Lyme disease ticks. LDCB’s goal is to promote broad-public awareness of health concerns associated with LD and tick-borne diseases in Minnesota. This goal will be accomplished through educational activities, a citizen-science program, and undergraduate research experiences. Education outreach will target Native American and rural populations and will include presentations at libraries, schools, environmental centers and civic organizations. Workshops will be held to provide in-depth LD information and information on MedlinePlus and the CDC tick-borne disease online reference. Community members (citizen-scientists) will be recruited to participate in Lyme Research and learn how to collect and identify ticks. The citizen-scientists will each receive a “tick kit” which helps identify the Ixodes scapularis tick which contains a tick removal key with the UMMS and NLM logos, tick and LD information card, collection bags, and mailing envelopes for tick submission to the Principal Investigator (PI). Collected ticks will be analyzed by Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) for Borrelia burgdorferi; the bacteria causing LD and the tick gut microbiome will be surveyed by Nanopore technology. Citizen scientists will provide ticks gathered during daily outdoor activities; thereby assisting in identifying areas where the Ixodes ticks are located and determining if the ticks are infected with Borrelia. This information will identify geographic areas where humans are likely to contact infected ticks. A web-based “Tick Story Map” (TSM) will further promote LD awareness. This online resource will combine images, video, a series of maps, including a tick-borne disease risk map, and a database for LD and tick-borne disease research. The LDCB will extend the citizen-based research to the discovery of other emerging tick-borne bacterial diseases revealed by the Nanopore technology. Citizen-scientists may review and contribute to the database using an online application to submit information such as weather conditions, date, time of day, vegetation and geographic terrain, and the types of activity when Ixodes tick contact occurred. Citizen-scientists will be encouraged to provide input on data analysis and future experimental design. Undergraduate college students will learn about Ixodes and LD as they gain valuable experience participating in field collections (tick drags), science enrichment activities to systematically survey for Borrelia-infected Ixodes, and performing lab-based PCR analysis and presenting research poster presentations of their work.

Identify any specific population(s) this project will serve: 
Medically Underserved Areas/Populations
All of Us
American Indian
Identify roles of participants this project will serve: 
Data resource or tool developer
Educator, college & post-grad
General public
Student, college & post-grad
Project Lead:
Benjamin Clarke
Funding Source: 
Project Funding:
Federal Fiscal Year: 
Funding Amount: 
Funding Period:
May 1, 2020 to Apr 30, 2021
Project Status:
In Progress