MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Ticks are a problem along the Gulf Coast, especially in Alabama, year-round due to our warm climate. The University of South Alabama received a grant from the state of Alabama to study the distribution of different species of ticks and the diseases they can carry.
Researchers say that over the past ten years, there has been an increase in incidents of tick-borne illness in the United States, including here in Alabama.
“Our basic concern is to determine what are the species here that could be carrying diseases,” says John McCreadie, Professor of Biology at the University of South Alabama.
The two primary diseases that ticks carry in Alabama are Lyme Disease and Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis. There has been an increase in this Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis, and the reason is unknown. Researchers are collecting ticks throughout the state by dragging a cloth over vegetation, going to deer meat processors, and setting carbon dioxide traps. After they are caught, the species of tick is identified before scientists examine them to determine what pathogen of a disease they are carrying, if any.
“You go to the doctors, the doctors want to prescribe antibiotics….we need to know exactly what the pathogen is to make sure the antibiotic is effective,” explains Jonathan Rayner, Associate Professor in Microbiology and Immunology.
There are several possible reasons for the increase in tick-related illness including more people spending time outdoors, an increase in population and an increase in awareness. One of the major goals of this research is to let you know where high population tick areas are, but it is important to remember to use repellant if you are hiking on trails in parks or wildlife management areas. Also, do not forget tick repellant for your pets!
The University of South Alabama also needs your help with this project. If you do find a tick, tape it to a piece of paper with the location and time that you found the tick. Mail it to:
Dr. John McCreadie, Entomologist
Department of Biology, 5871 USA Drive North
LSCB Room 124
University of South Alabama
Mobile AL 36688