canada africa partner reservation Pen Bay Medical Center participates in Lyme disease vaccine research with MaineHealth Institute for Research, Tufts

Pen Bay Medical Center participates in Lyme disease vaccine research with MaineHealth Institute for Research, Tufts


May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and scientists at the MaineHealth Institute for Research’s Vector-Borne Disease Lab are conducting several surveys and research projects this spring and summer to understand the ecology of deer ticks and tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease, easier to understand. field testing of new tick control approaches.

Among the projects:

  • Robert Smith, MD, MPH, the director of the Vector-Borne Disease Lab, is leading a review of a new blood test for early Lyme disease. The effort is supported by the National Institutes of Health. The MHIR Vector-borne Disease Lab is a key participant in the Tufts Lyme Disease Initiative that Dr. Smith co-leads with Linden Hu, MD, professor of immunology at Tufts University School of Medicine.
  • The team of Dr. Smith is also assisting at a Lyme vaccine testing site at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport and joins researchers from Tufts and Mass General Brigham in a program supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ​​to develop a system for surveillance of Lyme disease using electronic medical records.
  • Staff scientist Rebecca Robich, PhD, is working with interns this summer to determine the mammalian blood meal source for ticks infected with Powassan virus, a rare tick-borne virus that can cause encephalitis in humans. She will also investigate whether certain proteins help ticks survive the harsh environmental conditions of summer and winter.
  • Susan Elias, MS, PhD, studies how ticks, mosquitoes, and their pathogens relate to hosts, habitats, and weather patterns in the Maine environment. She also coordinates research that can better quantify the incidence of Lyme disease and improve Lyme disease testing.
  • Vector ecologist Chuck Lubelczyk is leading a five-year community-based tick control research project supported by the CDC with study sites in Maine and Connecticut. He also coordinates Maine’s statewide tick and mosquito surveillance efforts, with several members of the laboratory submitting ticks and mosquitoes for testing at the state’s Environmental Health and Testing Laboratory in Augusta.

Maine had a record 2,983 preliminary cases of Lyme disease, a new record, along with 777 preliminary cases of anaplasmosis and 194 preliminary cases of babesiosis in 2023, according to the Maine CDC. People seeking additional information about ticks and tick control methods can find resources on the MHIR website, including:

The CDC also has several resources with more information about vector-borne diseases on its website.