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Breaking Big: Small scale studies on basic biology of bacteria may have a big impact on tick-borne disease research

Tick-borne diseases are a global health problem. Based on data from large cross-sectional surveys conducted in the U.S., the CDC increased estimates of Lyme disease incidence in 2012 from approximately 30,000 new cases to over 300,000 in 2012. In comparison, the CDC estimates roughly 56,000 annual cases of HIV/AIDS, and 73,130 cases of influenza during the 2012-2013 flu season. With an annual national research budget of less than $25 million distributed primarily to a small number of NIH investigators, Lyme disease and other infectious diseases transmitted by ticks are neglected areas of research in microbiology. Working with a small team of research assistants comprised of undergraduate microbiology students at a community college, our “back to basics” approach to investigation of tick-borne disease has paid off big. Engaging undergraduate students in microbiology research has also had the value- added effect of increasing degree completion rates and transfer to baccalaureate programs and beyond.

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