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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Tuesday, June 17, 2003

IUB scientists to study the ecology of infectious disease -- inside ticks

Indiana University Bloomington and Ball State University biologists have been awarded $1.88 million by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health to study how harmless and disease-causing microorganisms interact inside the bodies of ticks.

Uncovering the tiny ecological worlds that exist inside every tick will enable researchers Keith Clay, Curt Lively, Michael Wade and Clay Fuqua (IUB) and Robert Pinger (Ball State University) to learn more about the epidemiology of tick-borne diseases. The scientists also hope to learn how non-pathogenic microbes elbow out pathogenic ones, thereby decreasing the spread of disease to humans and other animals.

By themselves, ticks are mainly harmless, but some of the microorganisms ticks carry can cause illness, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, human monocytic ehrlichiosis and Southern tick-associated rash illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 15,000 cases of Lyme disease alone are reported in the United States every year. Hoosiers, however, escape relatively easily. The Indiana State Department of Health reported only 32 total incidences of Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia combined in 2000, the most recent year for which data is available.

To speak with any of the Indiana University Bloomington researchers, contact David Bricker at 812-856-9035 or