The Vector-borne Disease Laboratory at Maine Medical Center Research Institute is dedicated to the control of emerging tick-and mosquito-borne diseases. We seek to:
- understand the environmental interactions of vectors, hosts, habitats, and climate.
- monitor the geography of risk.
- increase public awareness of the threat of tick-and mosquito-borne diseases.
Since 1988, Maine Medical Center Research Institute's Vector-borne Disease Laboratory has carried out research into the many biological and non-biological influences that contribute to the emergence and establishment of deer ticks in Maine.
For 25 years the lab has offered a free tick identification service which has provided invaluable information concerning the abundance and advancing distribution of the deer tick and repeated statewide canine serosurveys have demonstrated where Lyme disease is being transmitted. Studies have identified new reservoir-competent host species and, on isolated Monhegan Island, have demonstrated the effectiveness of deer removal to rid the island of deer ticks and the threat of Lyme disease. We have determined the role of habitat and of white-tailed deer on tick abundance and used molecular techniques to study the assemblage of genetic strains of the spirochete as the vector tick becomes established in new areas. Our group assisted in the development of a human Lyme vaccine and conducted a series of field studies demonstrating the effectiveness of a low-risk botanical acaricide (rosemary oil).
With the introduction of mosquito-borne West Nile virus to the United States in 1999 and the more recent arrival of Eastern Equine and West Nile encephalitis viruses to Maine, our work has expanded to include statewide mosquito trapping surveys and the collection of blood samples from deer, moose and pheasants to demonstrate the spread of these viruses in the state and identify new sentinel animals. To date, these studies have resulted in the publication of over 50 papers in refereed scientific journals. Translation of our research to the general public has always been a high priority, which we strive to accomplish through our website, contributions to the print and electronic media, videos, lectures, and close collaboration with Maine Center for Disease Control and other state agencies.