Warmer win­ters mean in­crease in tick pop­u­la­tion

Mount Al­li­son pro­fes­sor has per­sonal in­ter­est in re­search­ing ticks, Lyme dis­ease

The Amherst News - - COMMUNITY - By MaRk GoudGe SALTWIRE NET­WORK

“My ini­tial in­ter­est stemmed from the fact that I en­coun­tered a tick or, more ac­cu­rately, it en­coun­tered me.”

Dr. Vett Lloyd

Dr. Vett Lloyd has a per­sonal in­ter­est in re­search­ing ticks and Lyme dis­ease.

“My ini­tial in­ter­est stemmed from the fact that I en­coun­tered a tick or, more ac­cu­rately, it en­coun­tered me,” said the pro­fes­sor of bi­ol­ogy at Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity in Sackville, N.B.

At the time, Lloyd didn’t know any­thing about ticks. This one had fed on her for a long time be­fore be­ing no­ticed and by then she was sick and the road to re­cov­ery was a long one.

“Once I was well again, I re­al­ized I had a lot of ad­van­tages. I work in a univer­sity en­vi­ron­ment; other peo­ple were able to tell me what was go­ing on with ticks and they were able to tell me about Lyme dis­ease.”

She de­cided to take on a sum­mer project, to col­lect and doc­u­ment ticks, the in­fec­tion rate and the wildlife that sup­port them.

Six years later, they are get­ting more and more ticks sent to them. They are pro­mot­ing aware­ness of the num­ber of ticks and in­for­ma­tion on pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures.

A new web­site shows where ticks have been found and pro­jec­tions of where the pop­u­la­tion will spread (www.mar­itimet­ickmaps. ca).

A fe­male tick that has had a large blood meal, over a pe­riod of time, can lay up to 5,000 eggs. With harsh win­ters most of those eggs would die; now that the cli­mate is mod­er­at­ing, more of those eggs are sur­viv­ing.

“As a re­sult we are get­ting more and more ticks,” said Lloyd.

When vet­eri­nar­i­ans or the gen­eral pub­lic find a tick on a pet or them­selves, they mail them to the lab in a baggy with a note telling them where it was found. Lloyd and her stu­dents iden­tify them by species, then pho­to­graph, dis­sect and test for Lyme dis­ease by ex­tract­ing DNA from them.

One of Lloyd’s masters stu­dents, Joey Beaton, is also prepar­ing to con­duct tests to see if Lyme dis­ease is trans­mit­ted with­out the pres­ence of a tick, by pair­ing in­fected lab mice with non-in­fected mice.

Ticks in­fect a per­son by first feed­ing on an an­i­mal in the wild, like a mouse, that has al­ready been in­fected. Then af­ter at­tach­ing it­self to a per­son, the tick feeds on their blood. As blood is mostly wa­ter they push the waste that is now in­fected with Lyme dis­ease back into the per­son’s blood­stream

“You’re not only a meal but the tick’s sewer,” is how Lloyd ex­plains it.

With warmer win­ters peo­ple still need to be vig­i­lant. Even if the tem­per­a­tures are just above freez­ing, ticks can be ac­tive. This means they can pose the same threat as they do dur­ing the warm sum­mer months.

“The high-risk ar­eas are the south­ern third of the prov­ince and up the coast,” Lloyd says, for New Brunswick.

In Nova Sco­tia the cli­mate is a bit milder than New Brunswick’s so ticks are more es­tab­lished there.

“The south is worse than north, the coast is worse than the in­land, but it’s Nova Sco­tia, there’s a lot of coast,” ex­plains Lloyd.

Those who are ac­tive out­side should check them­selves and their pets reg­u­larly, to avoid com­pli­ca­tions that can arise from a tick bite.

MARK GOUDGE – SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Cana­dian Tick and Lyme re­searcher Pro­fes­sor Vett Lloyd has been re­search­ing ticks and Lyme dis­ease for the past six years.

MARK GOUDGE – SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Cana­dian Tick and Lyme re­searcher Vett Lloyd ex­am­ines a black-legged tick in through a mi­cro­scope in her lab at Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity.

MARK GOUDGE – SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Sec­ond-year Mount Al­li­son Masters of Sci­ence and Bi­ol­ogy stu­dent Joey Beaton checks on some of his lab mice prior to be­gin­ning test­ing trans­mis­sion of Lyme dis­ease with out a tick present.

MARK GOUDGE – SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Sec­ond-year Mount Al­li­son Masters of Sci­ence and Bi­ol­ogy stu­dent Joey Beaton checks on some of his lab mice prior to be­gin­ning test­ing trans­mis­sion of Lyme dis­ease with out a tick present.

MARK GOUDGE – SALTWIRE NET­WORK

A close-up view of a tick through a mi­cro­scope.

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