Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation funds original Lyme disease research at Mount Allison
Researchers at Mount Allison University are uniting their expertise to provide a comprehensive approach to Lyme disease research. Fourteen researchers have come together to form the Lyme Research Network (LYRN), which will provide a co-ordinated way to respond to the research needs of the Lyme community, to develop research that looks at the issue from new perspectives, and to share findings.
The researchers represent a variety of disciplines including biology, chemistry, geographic information systems (GIS), religious studies, English, commerce, political science, psychology, philosophy, economics, and computer science.
“One of the initiatives that was identified as being important in discussions on the federal framework on Lyme disease, which is currently being drafted by the federal government, is the need for multi and interdisciplinary research and that is something that Mount Allison does very well,” says Dr. Vett Lloyd, a Mount Allison biologist and a leading Canadian tick and Lyme researcher. “We have a history of working with communities and Mount Allison already does a lot of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work, so we are well-positioned to take on that role.”
Lloyd has already collaborated with colleagues to study the experiences of people with Lyme disease in Canada, tick mapping in New Brunswick, Lyme disease’s cost to the health care system, the risk of Lyme disease in New Brunswick dogs, and the tick microbiome. The network will provide opportunities for further collaborations as well as individual research.
The network is being supported by the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, which has provided funding to support student researchers. Thanks to the foundation’s gift, nine Mount Allison students will spend their summer conducting independent, original Lyme-related research.
“Mount Allison University is known for its critical thinkers and engaged citizens, a resource that is urgently needed in the discussions about Lyme disease,” says Jim Wilson, President and founder of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation. “The collaborative mindset of Mount Allison students will allow engagement in the difficult discussions and legitimate debate surrounding almost every aspect of Lyme disease. The voice of the patient is represented by the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation and we are proud to partner with Mount Allison University to provide research funding for students.”
Student research projects taking place this summer include looking at Lyme disease diagnostics, identifying new tick hybrids, exploring potential tick repellants, studying the antibiotic properties of certain compounds and their effectiveness against the Lyme bacteria, assessing the impact of Lyme disease on performance horses, analyzing the ecology of wildlife reservoirs, examining spirituality and resilience among those dealing with chronic disease, and creating a way to share information online about the distribution of ticks in New Brunswick and the risk of Lyme disease.
“Traditionally Lyme disease research has been conducted in silos, but Lyme disease is not just a medical problem. The impact of the disease on patients and their families and communities means it is also a social problem and a community problem,” Lloyd says. “If we start pouring chemicals into the environment to combat ticks, it is a chemistry problem and an ecological problem, so we need a multidisciplinary approach to make progress. The overall goal is to understand what is happening currently in Canada with Lyme disease and to move towards ameliorating the problem and reducing human and animal suffering from the disease.”
Mount Allison’s Lyme Research Network has made a commitment to conducting community and patient-driven research. It already reached out to Lyme patients in a roundtable held last fall.
“Our research is very much community-driven,” Lloyd says. “Lyme patients, their caregivers, health care providers, and veterinarians have all suggested important research avenues and are offered an opportunity to assess the research. Because we are doing it this way, it means the research we are doing is research the community of patients, caregivers, and medical professionals views as important. The translation of knowledge to the community is very good because they are involved at every stage.”
Dr. Vett Lloyd, Mount Allison University biologist
Bob Doucet, New Brunswick representative of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation
Emma Bush, Mount Allison student researcher