The latest and greatest update!

Lab Note #5
Jun 06, 2014
Hello everyone,
I've been in the lab and out in the field working hard on this project. I have some great news to share that I hope everyone will be as excited as I am.   

To summarize this project and the outcome that I've found:  

Side note: I've field collected ticks in both Oregon and Lake Como for 2014. This will help me analyze if the microbiomes change over time in the wild. On a side note - I took my oldest daughter into the field and she was very proud of her first tick collection :) 

Side note: I have presented this project at two Pacific Northwest scientific conferences and this coming week I was invited to present this research at a scientific conference in Illinois.

(1) Does the bacterial microbiome change based on geographic location?            
Yes it does! The ecosystems are different, the animals the ticks feed on are different, and the bacteria within the ticks are unique as well. We analyzed three sites (Idaho, Oregon, and Montana) and two of the sites are similar, whereas Montana is VERY different. This makes a lot of sense since these ticks become infected with Anaplasma marginale at different rates.  

(2) Does the microbiome change over time?            
I am still field collecting to answer this question for wild ticks … BUT I have analyzed the microbiome of the ticks that I keep in the lab and we can say that the microbiome does change over time *under laboratory conditions*  

(3) Can the bacterial microbiome be manipulated with antibiotics?
Yes it can and we found some interesting results. First, the location the ticks come from have different microbiomes and their microbiomes respond differently to treatment. Also, the tissues had unique bacteria and those bacteria responded differently. 
(4) Can I find a bacterium within the tick that can be used to lower or limit disease in cattle?              
I have found a bacterium that was associated with a lower level of tick infection of Anaplasma marginale and through manipulating the microbiome in (#3) we actually increased the level of this bacterium leading to an even lower infection level. This is great news!! We found a potential biocontrol to help cattle all over the world, which in turn would help farmers. In my last lab note I spoke about 'Rickettsia exclusion' and discuss this idea a bit more. 

So, now what?            
I am planning to do some really fun microinjections (giving ticks a shot of bacteria - see photo) and see if this potential bacterium is really a solution. I had such a great experience with crowd-funding that I will start a new project campaign to fund the bio-control project. Please come check out the campaign that should go up in a few days.

Many thanks!

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