Biology Students Co-author Paper on Pittsburgh Parks Lyme Disease Risk

Posted on 9/13/2019 10:44:45 AM

A team of six undergraduate students and two faculty members from the Department of Biology conducted a study of Lyme disease risk in the Pittsburgh regional parks and co-authored an article based on their research, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Matt DiLeonardo and Shannon Tepe tick dragging in Riverview Park

Shannon Tepe and Matt DiLeonardo dragging for ticks in Riverview Park

IUP biology majors Anna Manges, Shannon Tepe, Sara McBride, and Matt DiLeonardo; natural sciences major Tashi Bharathan; and visiting student researcher Alison Simmons worked with biology professors Joe Duchamp and Tom Simmons over the course of four years. They collected blacklegged tick nymphs and adults from Frick, Highland, Riverview, and Schenley parks, and tested the ticks for the Lyme disease pathogen.

Their results showed that the density of infected ticks in these western Pennsylvania city parks is as high as in non-urban residential and recreational settings in the Lyme disease hyperendemic coastal Northeastern United States.

They recommend that steps be taken to increase public awareness so visitors to the parks adopt personal protective measures and reduce their chances of contracting Lyme disease. Beyond Pittsburgh, their findings stress the need to surveil tick-borne diseases in green spaces within other cities, especially in high-incidence Lyme disease states.

Anna Manges and Thomas Simmons perform tick pathogen testing

Anna Manges and Tom Simmons testing ticks for pathogens in Forensic Microbiology Laboratory

The paper, “Lyme Disease Risk of Exposure to Blacklegged Ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) Infected with Borrelia burgdorferi (Spirochaetales: Spirochaetaceae) in Pittsburgh Regional Parks,” was published online as an advance article in the Journal of Medical Entomology on September 10, 2019, and will be published in print later this year.