Investigating Prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi and the Powassan Virus and the Spatiotemporal Variation of Their Vector, Ixodes Scapularis Abstract

Tick-borne diseases are growing increasingly prevalent in the United States and across the world. The relationship between Borrelia burgdorferi and Ixodes scapularis, or the pathogen responsible for Lyme Disease and the black-legged tick, is most commonly researched. I, however, am also interested in a lesser-known pathogen, the Powassan virus, and its relationship with the black-legged tick. The purpose of my project is two-fold: I wish to estimate the prevalence of both pathogens in the Williamsburg area since 2010, but I also want to understand if there are patterns in where and when these black-legged ticks are found. Over the summer, I will collect ticks across the Virginia and Middle Peninsulas and then use laboratory techniques such as PCR and gel electrophoresis to establish whether the ticks carried B. burgdorferi and/or the Powassan virus.  I will also use these techniques to look at ticks that have been collected in previous years but have not yet been studied. Additionally, I will analyze data gathered during tick collection, such as site, temperature, and month of collection to determine how our capture success varies in relation to these factors.  Once I have finalized my analyses, I will compile my findings on a poster for presentation upon my return next fall.