Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $369,923 in federal funding for the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Dutchess County, to conduct a study on Lyme disease. The grant was awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and will be used to complete an in-depth study of the disease’s impact on mice as well as other mammals, to address the growing epidemic of Lyme disease in New York and across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported Lyme disease cases in the U.S. have more than doubled since the CDC began recording cases in 1991, creating the need for an aggressive response on the federal level. Between 2007 and 2012, New York State had more than 21,500 confirmed cases of Lyme disease.
“This is an important investment to help combat the growing epidemic of Lyme disease,” Senator Gillibrand said. “With the summer season beginning, our families should be able to enjoy nature without the fear of possibly catching this disease. This study by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is a step in the right direction and I am pleased that critical research will be done right here in the Hudson Valley. We must continue to invest in better research, educate families on the risks, emphasize prevention, and improve treatment strategies throughout our communities.”
“The Cary Institute has identified disease ecology as one of its focal areas for research, and this support from the National Science Foundation helps strengthen our effort to understand the risk of Lyme disease and how to prevent it,” said Dr. William H. Schlesinger, President of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
“Support from the NSF is critical in helping us unravel the complex biology of Lyme disease in nature. This basic research will help us reduce encounters between people and infected ticks and prevent cases of Lyme before they happen,” said Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld, Senior Scientist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
According to NSF, recent data suggests that mice infected with the Lyme disease bacterium live about 17% longer than uninfected mice, increasing their ability to transmit infection. Ticks acquire this disease from infected mice and other animals and transmit it to humans. Senior Scientist Richard S. Ostfeld, at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, will examine the effects of Lyme disease on mouse survival and abundance. The researchers will also study how often mice and other animals are bitten by ticks carrying Lyme disease. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies plans to use a vaccine on mice that carry the disease which, if successful, could weaken the disease’s impact and stop the spread to humans.
Caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected black-legged ticks. Early signs of infection can commonly be mistaken for other illnesses, and may include a rash and flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue. If diagnosed early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. However, the severity of untreated Lyme disease can have devastating effects: if treatment is not administered in a timely fashion, victims can develop severe heart, neurological, eye, and joint problems.