SCARBOROUGH – May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and scientists at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI) Vector-Borne Disease Laboratory are conducting several surveys and research projects this spring and summer to better understand the tick migration and tick-borne diseases, including Lyme. Among the projects:

Robert Smith, MD, MPH, director of the Vector-Borne Disease Lab, is co-director of the Tufts Lyme Disease Initiative with physician Linden Hu, MD professor of immunology and associate dean of research at Tufts University School of Medicine. The initiative promotes interdisciplinary research into all aspects of Lyme disease, including researching ways to eliminate Lyme disease at its source by preventing ticks from spreading Lyme bacteria in nature and evaluating new strategies to diagnose Lyme disease.

Scientist Rebecca Robich, Ph.D., is investigating whether the type of habitat ticks inhabit plays a role in the transmission of Powassan virus, a tick-borne disease that can cause viral encephalitis.

Staff scientist Susan Elias, MS, Ph.D., continues to study the impact of temperature and humidity changes on tick survival.

Vector ecologist Chuck Lubelczyk coordinates Maine’s statewide tick and mosquito surveillance efforts, with several members of the lab submitting ticks and mosquitoes for testing to the Environmental Health and Testing Lab. of the state in Augusta.

“Lyme disease is a growing public health threat,” Robert Smith, MD, MPH, director of the Vector-Borne Disease Lab at MMCRI, said in a press release. “Understanding both disease and the conditions that allow ticks that carry it and other diseases to thrive is critical to finding new ways to protect our communities.

In 2019, Maine had 1,629 confirmed cases of Lyme disease, the highest incidence rate in the nation, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People looking for additional information about ticks and tick control methods can find resources on the MMCRI website, including:

Advice on tick and mosquito control, as well as how to remove attached ticks

Maine Tick Descriptions

Information on tick-borne diseases

The CDC also has several resources with more information about vector-borne diseases on its website.

About Maine Medical Center

Maine Medical Center (MMC), recognized as Best Regional Hospital by US News and World Report for 2021-2022, is a comprehensive healthcare resource for residents of Greater Portland and statewide, as well as northern New England. Incorporated in 1868, MMC is the largest medical center in the state, licensed for 700 beds and employing over 9,600 people. MMC’s unique role as a community hospital and referral center requires an unparalleled depth and breadth of services, including an active educational program and a world-class biomedical research facility. As a nonprofit institution, Maine Medical Center provides nearly 23% of all charitable care provided in Maine. MMC is part of the MaineHealth system, a growing family of healthcare services in northern New England. For more information, visit www.mmc.org.