Date of Submission

Spring 2013

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Felicia Keesing, Michael Tibbetts

Project Advisor 2

Brooke Jude

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Microbiomes, the communities of microorganisms that can be found on and within humans, animals, and the environment, are emerging as a new frontier field in biology. The Human Microbiome Project is unlocking connections between microbiomes, health, and disease. Understanding the microbiomes of animals may prove to be important in controlling infectious disease. Some of the Infectious diseases, specifically zoonotic diseases, are often vector-borne. Blood-feeding insects and hard ticks are common vectors for major global infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease, malaria, and African sleeping sickness. Insects are known to harbor symbiotic bacteria that are necessary to survival, and may interact with pathogens within the insect vector. Elucidating the microbial ecosystem within disease vectors may help develop better disease-control strategies. Paratransgenesis, or the genetic modification of a microbial symbiont of an infectious disease vector, is emerging as a potential new strategy for disease control. An investigation of the microbial communities within ticks may open up new possibilities for disease control, following the trend of paratransgenesis. Lyme disease, which is vectored by blood-feeding hard ticks (Ixodidae) and caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, is a growing threat worldwide. This project seeks to investigate the differences between the microbiomes of black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) that are infected with the Lyme disease pathogen (Borrelia burgdorferi), and of those that are not.

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