Final Lab Results and New Beginnings
In my last update I explained how we had collected blood from an Eastern Phoebe that was PCR-positive for Borrelia bacteria. This was exciting because, 1) Here was a migratory bird that could spread the bacteria that causes Lyme disease to novel locations during its migration, and 2) Could potentially yield information about a particular genotype of Borrelia that is being carried by this bird.
After about a month of testing, and re-testing, and trying this DNA-sequencing protocol, and that DNA-sequencing protocol we were unable to sequence the bacteria. We couldn't quite figure out exactly why but we were at least confident that the bird was infected with the common human-infecting species based on PCR tests.
Our results are similar to other studies from around the country that found birds to be involved in enzootic (wildlife) cycles of Lyme disease, but not significant contributors to the spread or maintenance of the disease. Definitely some good news for now, but worth keeping an eye on. I am working on publishing the article and will update you all again if/when it's accepted.
Some other exciting news is that, since moving to Rhode Island for my husband's medical residency program in June, this research project (that you all made possible!) helped me land a position working at the University of Rhode Island's TickEncounter Resource Center. There, I currently assist with identifying ticks for their TickSpotters program and conduct research on the efficacy of tickborne disease prevention outreach programs. If you have ANY questions related to ticks, please check us out.
Thank you again for all of your support and interest in my research.