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EEB members gain high profile from being "ticked"

February 11, 2021

Fisheries and Wildlife Associate Professor Jean Tsao, along with PhD student Isis Arsnoe and alumna Genevieve Pang, all EEB members, are basking in the limelight cast in part by black-legged ticks and skinks.

Biologist Jean Tsao readies a 'tick garden' used for close-up observations of ticks.
Jean Tsao readies a 'tick garden' used for close-up observations of ticks. Photo credit: Graham Hickling.

The group, with colleagues, published a paper in the open-access journal PLOS Biology exploring why the ticks, renowned for carrying Lyme Disease to humans, are less likely to affect the lizards they feed upon in the south. 

"Why Lyme disease is common in the northern US, but rare in the south: The roles of host choice, host-seeking behavior, and tick density" explored the protection the ground-dwelling lizards extended to humans by kicking the viruses ticks can carry. The paper attracted the attention of Science Magazine's news section.

The article notes that Lyme disease is one of the most devastating tick-borne infections in the United States, affecting more than 300,000 people each year. The article credits Tsao and her colleagues with shedding light on a mystery of why more Lyme Disease cases occur in the north than the south, even though the black-legged ticks are distributed throughout much of the country. 

The story was also picked up by Science News.