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Researchers in Syracuse offering free testing to track tick population and diseases they may carry

John Tann

There are a number of initiatives taking place around the region to fight the spread of ticks. Beyond things like culling deer, research is playing a key role in dealing with ticks and the diseases they can carry. 

One way to get a handle on the issue is by offering free tick testing to central New Yorkers. Dr. Saravanan Thangamani is a tick expert at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. He said scientists will test for 10 tick-borne diseases sent in by any central New Yorker. Researchers can then determine the geographic expansion of the tick population, as well as what tick-borne diseases are following them.

"The more ticks we get is good for our data, because the more data we have, our outcome will be more robust," said Thangamani. "Also we are collecting the zip code when they send, all we are asking is the zip code, so we know which zip code has particular pathogen prevalence, and does it change over time."

All people have to do is put the tick in a plastic bag with a blade of grass or a moist paper and send it to the lab, and get results if they want by including an email address.

Thangamani is also leading a team that is collecting ticks from Green Lakes State Park trying to determine if more than one pathogen can exist in one insect, and how that impacts transmission of things like Lyme Disease. 

Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is hoping to get federal funding for more research, pushing for The Tick Identification Pilot Program Act, meant to get more information about ticks out to the public. Central New York in recent years has been plagued with high rates of tick-borne disease.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.