Students assist military in Lyme disease research study

Jacob Hunt, Campus Carrier staff writer

For the past two years, Berry has partnered with Fort Campbell military base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky to study different tick species in the area. The project has allowed students to gain experience in a real life biological research study, while also contributing their findings to professional organizations. 

“All of our tick samples have come from deer at Fort Campbell Army Base in Kentucky,” sophomore participant Gretchen Reifenberger said. 

The tick study is run by DeLacy Rhodes, associate professor of biology, and serves multiple purposes for both the researchers and those affected by tick populations. The students gain professional experience along with knowledge about the different species of ticks and the diseases they carry. 

“We aren’t looking at what they do during their lifetime, but the pathogens they carry,” Reifenberger said. “We hope to use that information in the future for research on tick-borne illnesses.” 

Ticks carry many diseases, most of which have little to no research in their prevention or cures. One such disease that can be transmitted to humans from ticks is Lyme Disease and cures to Lyme Disease are still in early stages. The Berry tick study is helping fix these issues. After completing research, Rhodes will give the info collected in a form of journals to multiple organizations, which in turn will use it to find cures and inform the public. 

“The project is still a ways away from completion, so journals for publication have not been identified yet,” Rhodes said. 

The tick study also provides benefits to the host of the project, Fort Campbell base. The base provides Rhodes and her students’ samples from the area each year. Residents of Fort Campbell and their families will be directly debriefed at the study’s conclusion, so they can be prepared and know what they are living with on the base. This is especially beneficial due to the large amount of outdoor time workers on the base have to face. 

The tick research study will continue over the next few months and has so far proven quite successful for all groups involved. The students not only have gained a better understanding of biology in the process, but have been able to improve the world as well. 

“Our research is hoping to get data from a very specific population of ticks and see what we can do to help the tick community and also letting these soldiers and their families know the risks they have living on Fort Campbell,” Reifenberger said. 

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