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Research Foundation for Tick-Borne Infections Fights Lyme Disease, Babesiosis and Encephalitis with Pilot Studies
Date:2/15/2013

0 genes in B. burgdorferi – or more than 5% of its entire genome. Many of these genes are differentially expressed depending on the host environment and are likely critical to the pathogen’s ability to maintain infectivity in both ticks and mammals. By studying the effects of EbfC on different phases of the tick-mammal infectious cycle, Dr. Stevenson hopes to decipher the specific details of its regulatory role. Further, because regulatory pathways are attractive targets for the development of novel preventative and curative therapies, and because many other bacterial pathogens contain genes similar to EbfC, this work has the potential to improve prevention and treatment not only of Lyme disease, but of other significant human diseases as well.

A second Lyme disease-related grant has been awarded to Dr. Mollie Jewett of the University of Central Florida. Like Dr. Stevenson, Dr. Jewett will be examining gene regulation in B. burgdorferi, but her focus will be on small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs). The role of sRNAs in B. burgdorferi is still unclear, but they have been definitively shown to control the pathogenic properties of other bacterial species. Preliminary work in Dr. Jewett’s lab has led to the identification of presumed novel sRNAs that are expressed by B. burgdorferi during mammalian infection, and the NRFTD award will help her characterize this regulatory molecule, increase understanding of the genetic mechanisms employed by B. burgdorferi to survive throughout its infections cycle, and possibly lead to novel ways to treat patient with Lyme disease.

NRFTD has also awarded a grant to Dr. Edouard Vannier of the Tufts Medical Center’s Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Vannier will be studying host resistance to infection by Babesia microti, the malaria-like causative agent of human babesiosis. Babesiosis is a potentially serious tick-transmitted disease characterized by fever, chills, fatigue and anemia, and can be spread
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