lyme disease


Researchers Use Big Data To Seek ‘Unique Fingerprint’ Of Long-Term Lyme Disease Symptoms

In this 2014 file photo, an informational card about ticks distributed by the Maine Medical Center Research Institute is seen in the woods in Freeport, Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

In this 2014 file photo, an informational card about ticks distributed by the Maine Medical Center Research Institute is seen in the woods in Freeport, Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

By Richard Knox

One of the hottest fashions in science these days is Big Data: the idea that revelations can be teased out from great masses of information. Now, some researchers are using the strategy to pry open the black box of Lyme disease.

Four decades after the tick-borne infection first came to light in the vicinity of Lyme, Connecticut, the small world of Lyme-focused researchers isn’t even close to understanding why the disease often seems to plague its victims with disabling immunologic and neurologic problems that can persist for years.

Dr. John Aucott thinks Big Data can change that. “We’re really embarking on a new stage — a new era,” says Aucott, director of the year-old Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The first step is to show that chronic Lyme disease “is a real illness,” Aucott says. “Many people don’t believe it exists because there’s no objective underpinning.”

That is, there’s no diagnostic test — a biological marker that’s present in people who suffer from chronic Lyme disease symptoms and absent in others. Consequently, the disorder widely called “chronic Lyme disease” is a grab bag of a diagnosis — and probably not one singular disorder.

“Chronic Lyme usually refers to a very heterogeneous population with nonspecific ailments,” Aucott says. “Some may be related to Lyme, others to other tick-borne infections or illnesses we can’t define accurately.”

Aucott and his colleagues have just published some of the first Big Data-derived evidence in the journal mBio. They’ve found a set of activated genes in immune cells of patients newly infected with the Lyme disease bacterium, compared to similar people without Lyme.

“[The study results] may finally start cracking the mystery of why people fail therapy.”

– Dr. Harriet Kotsoris, Global Lyme Alliance

Intriguingly, some of these genes were still activated six months later, even among patients with verified Lyme disease who were successfully treated with antibiotics. Some of these genes overlapped with those activated in autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis — a hint that the Lyme disease bacterium can have a lasting effect on the immune system, a leading hypothesis that has lacked concrete evidence until now.

Dr. Harriet Kotsoris, chief science officer of the Global Lyme Alliance, says the results are provocative. “It may finally start cracking the mystery of why people fail therapy and give us an insight of the genetic makeup of post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome,” she says. “And importantly, it may offer a diagnostic profile.”

One big problem is that patients who believe they have chronic Lyme disease can test negative for antibodies for the infection. That doesn’t mean they weren’t infected, but it does leave them in diagnostic limbo.

To uncover the gene-expression pattern, Aucott and his colleagues had to do 73 million gene sequence “reads” for each of the study subjects — 29 with Lyme disease and 13 controls. That’s the Big Data. They’ve since sampled the immune cells of 175 patients. Continue reading


Research Raises Prospect Of Springtime Shot To Protect Against Lyme Disease


“Sign me up!”

That was my first, emphatic reaction to word that University of Massachusetts Medical School researchers are making progress toward a shot that we here in Lyme disease territory could get every spring for months-long protection through high tick season. It would use monoclonal antibodies — medical cruise missiles that can hit the narrowest of targets.

Sadly, the research, though promising, is still only in mice, and it will be years before such a shot could possibly be available in humans. But for those of us eagerly awaiting better protection against Lyme disease — not to mention those of us frustrated by this: Why your dog can get vaccinated against Lyme disease and you can’t — it’s heartening news nonetheless.

I asked for details from UMass Medical School professor Mark Klempner, a longtime Lyme disease researcher and executive vice chancellor of MassBiologics, a non-profit, UMass-affiliated maker of vaccines and other public-health-oriented medicines. His colleague, Dr. Yang Wang, just presented their team’s findings to a major conference on infectious disease in San Diego. His summary:

“For the past two-and-a-half years, MassBiologics has been developing a new approach to prevention of Lyme disease, as part of our overall public health efforts to protect the citizens of Massachusetts and beyond for diseases of interest.

We’ve taken a different approach than the vaccine approach, and what we’ve developed is a human monoclonal antibody that, when present in the blood of a host, will prevent the transmission of the Lyme disease bacteria from the tick to that host.

When the tick bites you, it then drinks in a little bit of your blood, and contained within that blood is the medicine that kills the bacteria right in the gut of the tick.

– Dr. Mark Klempner

I want to emphasize that so far these studies have been done exclusively in animals — so-called preclinical studies — and our future is to move this into clinical studies, which we will hopefully initiate in 2016.

The idea here is based on a couple of precedents. The first is: We know that the previously available [Lyme disease] vaccine worked by inducing many, many different antibodies, only one of which was important in the protection. And similarly, we know that there is a precedent for being able to give a safe and effective monoclonal antibody to young babies in order to prevent them from getting a different infectious disease called Respiratory Syncitial Virus.

So for both precedent and safety reasons, we chose to go after a single monoclonal antibody that would be able to prevent the transmission of Lyme disease during the entire season. The monoclonal antibody idea has additional benefit in that when the vaccine was available, it required three shots over six months to induce immunity, and so you needed to start to take the medicine sometime in the winter in order to be able to protected in the following fall, and there was not a lot of uptake of that.

Dr. Mark Klempner (Courtesy UMMS)

Dr. Mark Klempner (Courtesy UMMS)

So here, one of the advantages is that the antibody, if we give it to you, provides you immediate immunity, as it does in a mouse, and it should last for the entire season by engineering the antibody to have a very, very long half life. And then it would be gone at the end of the season, and the next season you would take the medicine again and it should work again for the entire season.

The overall mechanism of the way the antibody works is quite interesting and unique, and it’s really based on the idea that the way you catch Lyme disease is, obviously, by the bite of the tick, and what happens in the tick when it drinks your blood is that there’a a sudden explosion of the organisms in the intestine of the tick, where they begin to multiply very quickly; they change somewhat and then they invade the tick gut and move to the salivary gland, where, during the feeding process they can then be deposited in your skin, where you get that typical bullseye rash, often.

So here the idea is that if you have the circulating antibody going around when the tick bites you, it then drinks in a little bit of your blood and contained within that blood is the medicine that kills the bacteria right in the gut of the tick and thereby prevents transmission.

When we do these studies in mice, that’s exactly what happens. Continue reading

‘Not Just Lyme Disease Anymore’: 7 New Reasons To Fear Ticks This Summer

Michael Vitelli of Marshfield Hills, Mass., a fit and active father of four who was recently laid low by the tick-borne disease anaplasmosis. (Courtesy)

Michael Vitelli of Marshfield Hills, Mass., a fit and active father of four who was recently laid low by the tickborne disease anaplasmosis. (Courtesy)

A father of four boys, Michael Vitelli of Marshfield Hills, Mass., lives a high-energy, outdoor and active life when he’s not at work. He fishes, he hikes, he golfs, he can even boast a running streak of 642 days in a row.

But last month, on what would have been day 643 of running, a tick brought him to an excruciating halt.

After feeling achey for a few days, Vitelli suddenly got too sick to get out of bed, as if with a summer flu — fever, sweats and chills, headache. Then he got even sicker. His test results looked dire: protein and bile in his urine;  liver function gone haywire; platelets, red and white blood cells down so low that his chart looked like he had leukemia, a doctor told him.

The diagnosis, after three days in the hospital: anaplasmosis, an infection borne by the same deer ticks that carry Lyme disease. It’s up dramatically in Massachusetts: About 600 confirmed and probable cases statewide last year, compared to closer to just 100 in 2010.

Never heard of it? Neither had Vitelli. Naturally, he’d heard of Lyme, which has spread across much of the country in recent decades and now infects an estimated 300,000 Americans a year at least, mainly in New England and the Midwest.

But like most people, he didn’t know that ticks can carry a whole array of nasty bugs — with obscure names like babesiosis and Borrelia miyamotoi — and that, though much less common, they, too, are on the rise, following more slowly behind the inexorable march of Lyme disease.

(Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health)

(Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health)

In worst-case scenarios, some of these infections can kill people, usually those who are old or have an underlying condition. Deaths are very rare; what’s not rare is for patients to get much more acutely, severely ill than is typical for Lyme disease.

“Those little ticks,” Vitelli says with the voice of bitter experience. “They can really wreak havoc with the body.”

It’s peak season for Lyme disease right now, and for these other infections as well. If the risk of Lyme hasn’t been enough to prompt you to take the recommended measures against ticks — repellent, tick checks — perhaps awareness of these rising new risks will add impetus. Public health officials also call for vigilance about persistent summer fevers with no other obvious explanation, and for greater awareness that they can be caused by bugs other than Lyme.

“If you live in an area where there’s Lyme disease, you should be aware of these other agents,” says Dr. Peter Krause, a tickborne disease expert at the Yale School of Public Health. “And that’s true throughout the United States.”

It’s also true for doctors. “If you’re thinking about Lyme disease, you should think about these other diseases, too,” says Dr. Larry Madoff, director of epidemiology and immunization at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, who recently helped treat a case of anaplasmosis in central Massachusetts. “And even if you don’t see Lyme disease, if you have a patient who reports tick exposures or lives in an area where there’s a high prevalence of these diseases, you should think about these as well. And they are treatable,” with antibiotics.

At the risk of being accused of scaremongering, here are seven new reasons to fear, loathe and avoid ticks more than ever this summer, based on news about these more acute infections:

1. Pronounced me-ya-moe-toe-eye: 

Researchers keep finding new tickborne bugs, like Borrelia miyamotoi, which was first reported in 2013 and causes flu-like feverish illnesses so severe that a recent study found that about one-quarter of patients who tested positive for it had landed in the hospital.

About 14 percent of patients who had it also tested positive for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The findings suggest that Borrelia miyamotoi “may not be a rare infection in the northeastern United States,” the authors write.

2. No Relaxing In August Continue reading

In Test Tube, ‘Pulse-Doses’ Of Antibiotic Wipe Out Lyme Disease Bacteria Persisters

Northeastern graduate student Bijaya Sharma has worked on recent Lyme disease experiments that may have found a new way to kill "persister" bacteria cells. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Northeastern graduate student Bijaya Sharma has worked on recent Lyme disease experiments that may have found a new way to kill “persister” bacteria cells – at least, in a Petri dish. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

From the Northeast to the Midwest and beyond, it’s high season for Lyme disease. An estimated 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with the spreading, tickborne disease every year. Most can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but for some, symptoms persist for months and even years — pain, fatigue, arthritis.

For me, Lyme disease news tends to range from horrifying — stories of insidious, life-ruining symptoms — to just depressing, like recent speculation that New England’s massive snowfall this winter may have insulated ticks and helped them survive.

So, though it’s still extremely early research, I was gladdened by a report just out from Northeastern University that a prominent germ-fighting scientist may have found a new way to kill off Lyme disease bacteria even when it persists after antibiotics. In test tubes, at least.

Prof. Kim Lewis, chief of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Prof. Kim Lewis, chief of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Prof. Kim Lewis, chief of Northeastern’s Antimicrobial Discovery Center, made a big splash just this January in the journal Nature with the discovery of a potent new antibiotic.

Now, he reports finding not a new compound but a new anti-Lyme timing regime for dosing of antibiotics.

“We decided, ‘OK, let’s look at, what are the potential vulnerabilities of this seemingly invincible pathogen?” he says. “It has all these strengths, but what are its vulnerabilities?”

That powerful pathogen is Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease bacterium. Until recently, Lewis did not include it in his research repertoire. But a couple of years ago, he was invited to a conference on Lyme disease, and unlike his usual scientific gatherings, it included some long-suffering patients.

“That probably was a tipping point,” he says, “that suggested to me that we should really get into this, and maybe try to do something.”

Lewis had long researched other hard-to-eradicate infections. “What we found, and published over the years,” he says, “is that in chronic infections, you have a small subpopulation of dormant, spore-like cells — these are called persisters,” he says. “So when antibiotics kill off the regular cells, persisters survive to live another day.”

“Of course, the word of caution is, this was in the test tube. It has not been tested in animals, nor has it, obviously, been tested in humans.”

– Dr. Harriet Kotsoris,
Global Lyme Alliance

There’s long been debate about whether the long-lasting symptoms that some Lyme patients experience could stem from Borrelia persisters, somehow hiding out in the body. Lewis had seen how latent tuberculosis could lie low. He suspected Lyme disease might be similar, and decided to look at persisters.

His research team attacked some Borrelia with antibiotics and then waited…and waited…a very long time in the world of bacteria — three weeks. They found that with time, regular cells were killed but persisters remained completely intact.

“That was expected,” Lewis says. “Also satisfying, that this may be an important culprit explaining at least part of the difficulty of treating Lyme disease.

Once he’d homed in on the persisters, Lewis wanted, naturally, to obliterate them. His team tried several compounds that had worked on persisters in other bacteria — in staph, for example, and E. coli — but with no luck. Continue reading

Asthma, Lyme Disease, Salmonella: How Climate Change May Worsen Your Health

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks  in Washington in 2014. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/File)

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks in Washington in 2014. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/File)

The link between climate change and extreme weather is widely known. But as the planet warms, what about the risks to your own personal health?

I asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, a Boston native in town to deliver the commencement address at UMass Boston (her alma mater), to give some specific examples of how climate change can impact human health. Here, edited, is our conversation.

RZ: So, feel free to get scary here, what should people know about climate change and their own health?

GM: As temperatures rise, smog gets worse and allergy seasons get longer, which makes it harder for our kids to breathe. We know that increasing the ozone, the ground level smog, makes it difficult for kids — and also the elderly — to breathe, it impacts their lung function. So, you’re going to see a dramatic rise in the number of kids with asthma who experience bad air days.

So, the allergy season gets longer, and this is related to the warmer temperatures as well as the later fall frosts, which means plants produce pollen later in the year. The length of the ragweed pollen season has increased in 10 of 11 locations studied in the Central U.S. and Canada.

This season is awful: I have a little allergy this year for the first time. I found myself sneezing, my eyes watering. Even the dog went on some kind of antihistamine. I felt sorry for her.

You also mentioned ticks, what will happen in their world?

Warmer temperatures also bring increases in vector-borne diseases — Lyme disease, mosquito and tick-borne diseases, and expanded seasons. What we see is that the Lyme disease areas are expanding and the number of cases is increasing. Among the states where Lyme disease is most common [New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts], on average, these five states now report 50 to 90 more cases per 100,000 people than they did in 1991.

You can clearly see the geographic region expand. Also, West Nile Virus is expanding. Our climate assessment tracks geography and seasons getting longer, expanding. As temperatures get higher, the entire ecosystem changes. I was in Aspen, the winters are getting shorter.

Screen shot 2015-05-28 at 1.11.33 PM

Are there any other diseases we should brace for?

There are also water and food borne diseases: salmonella, that relates to food potentially sitting out, the higher the temperature the more salmonella outbreaks. The same with water — anything that’s a bacteria — it’s going to increase in warmer weather. Continue reading

Study: New Test For Finding Drugs To Fight Persistent Lyme Disease

The classic "bullseye rash" of Lyme Disease

The classic “bullseye rash” of Lyme Disease

Potentially promising news on Lyme disease: Johns Hopkins researchers report a new, improved test for determining which drugs may work against Lyme disease bacteria that persist even after antibiotic treatment.

This enters the contentious realm of “chronic” Lyme disease — medical authorities agree that the effects of Lyme disease can last, but there’s some disagreement over whether this is actually a persistent infection.

The paper is just out in the journal PLOS ONE with the title, “An Optimized SYBR Green I/PI Assay for Rapid Viability Assessment and Antibiotic Susceptibility Testing for Borrelia burgdorferi.” (Borrelia burgorferi are the Lyme disease bacteria.) From the Johns Hopkins press release:

Study leader Ying Zhang, MD, PhD, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, and his colleagues tweaked a test typically used for simply counting DNA in samples in the lab. Using the test, they were able to quantify how many Borrelia burgdorferi are alive and how many are dead after each drug was added to the bacteria. The method stains the living bacteria green and the dead or dying bacteria red in a way that filters out the noise that can corrupt existing tests.

“It’s superior to the current gold standard for testing Borrelia viability,” Zhang says. “This could become the new gold standard.”

The most exciting part of the development of the test, Zhang says, is that his team has already used it to identify a series of antibiotics approved to treat other infections that show promise in the lab against the lingering Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, known as persisters. In a study published in July in the journal Emerging Microbes and Infections, Zhang and colleagues used the new test – called the SYBR Green I/PI assay – to identify several antibiotics that showed promise against the persistent bacteria that appear immune to the current Lyme antibiotics. That paper has been the most popular on the journal’s website, and patients, doctors and researchers have been contacting Zhang interested in testing out the most promising of the newly identified drugs. Continue reading

If You Find A Tick: Why I Resorted To Mooching Pills To Fight Lyme Disease

A March 2002 file photo of a deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I. (Victoria Arocho/AP)

A March 2002 file photo of a deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I. (Victoria Arocho/AP)

I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m a good little medical doobie. I’m wary of pills, take them only with prescriptions, and follow the instructions to the letter. But last month, I “borrowed” a friend’s extra 200 milligrams of doxycycline — the onetime antibiotic dose shown to help prevent Lyme disease soon after a prolonged tick bite.

What brought me to that desperate point? A doctor declined to prescribe the pills, even though this is prime Lyme disease season and the patient, my family member, fulfilled every one of mainstream medicine’s requirements for the single dose aimed at preventing Lyme. To wit:

• The tick was a fully engorged deer tick that had been attached for more than 36 hours.

• We sought treatment within three days of removing it.

• The tick came from a Lyme-endemic area.

• And the patient had no medical reason to avoid antibiotics.

The antibiotics I “borrowed” from a generous friend (Carey Goldberg/WBUR)

The antibiotics I “borrowed” from a generous friend (Carey Goldberg/WBUR)

But still. The doctor argued that the chances of contracting Lyme from the tick were very small, perhaps 1 in 50, and that overuse of antibiotics contributes to the growing problem of drug-resistant bacteria. This is what he would do for his own family member, he said: skip the doxycycline, wait to see if Lyme develops, and treat it with a full 10-day course of antibiotics if it does.

I was frustrated and frankly a bit appalled. WBUR ran a series on Lyme disease in 2012, and I knew that controversy raged around many aspects of the disease, particularly the use of long-term antibiotics to treat long-term symptoms. But I was just trying to follow the widely accepted guidelines written by the Infectious Disease Society of America, to be found in reputable medical venues like UpToDate. And I knew from that same series that Lyme is rife in New England, and so are personal stories of health and lives ruined or seriously harmed.

Still, maybe I was overreacting? I’ve since sought a reality check from three experts, including the lead author of the guidelines. And here’s what I come away with: No, I was not unreasonable in seeking the preventive doxycycline. Arguably, though I hate to admit it, the doctor was not being totally unreasonable in declining it. The guidelines say a doctor “may” prescribe the antibiotic; it’s not a “must.”

In the end, I think, the crux of the question may lie in how you see the doctor’s role: Is it to lay out the risks and benefits and then let the patient choose? Or to impose his or her own best medical judgment on the patient? (You can guess where I come down on that one.) Also, “better safe than sorry” tends to rule when it comes to my loved ones. But what if the risk is small and the benefit uncertain? Continue reading

Lyme Disease Investigation: Buyer Beware Of Unvalidated Tests

Screen shot 2014-06-18 at 11.35.38 AM

Some refer to “The Lyme Wars.” They talk about entering “The Lymelands,” where hard facts are suddenly few and far between. Many aspects of Lyme disease — particularly of the long-lasting effects some call “Chronic Lyme” — are controversial and contentious and frustratingly slippery.

It’s a reporter’s nightmare, but Beth Daley — a former Pulitzer finalist at the Boston Globe — takes a brave step into the Lyme disease world with a new investigative report on serious questions about some Lyme disease diagnostic tests: Can You Trust Lyme Disease Tests? It begins:

As Lyme disease becomes an increasingly challenging public health threat across the Northeast, a growing number of tests for the vexing ailment may be misdiagnosing patients when telling them that they have – or don’t have – the tick-borne illness.

An exemption in federal regulations allows many labs to offer Lyme tests without proof that they accurately identify the disease, leaving anxious patients and their doctors to decide which tests to believe. Continue reading

Tick Season: Scary New Stats And Five Smart Tips (Spray Your Shoes)

A tiny nymphal deer tick among poppy seeds. Can you spot it? (TickEncounter Resource Center/ Brian Mullen)

A tiny nymphal (the most dangerous stage) deer tick on a poppy seed bagel. Can you spot it? (TickEncounter Resource Center/ Brian Mullen)

Fine. I’m a nag. I tell you the same thing over and over for your own good. But only once a year, and now is the time: Caution. Especially if you live in the Northeast, Midwest or mid-Atlantic. Watch out for the deer ticks that carry Lyme and other diseases.

This is the worst season, when the voracious adolescent “nymphal” ticks come out in force, plotting (I may be projecting a bit here) to creep under your clothes and drink your blood and give you their germs, knowing you’re unlikely to notice a dark speck the size of a poppy seed — check out the photo above — until it’s too late.

A bit of added incentive this year to take preventive measures: scary new statistics and some smart new tips. We cannot know whether this will be a particularly heavy tick year, but Dr. Catherine Brown, of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, told WBUR, “We haven’t seen any weather in the last couple of years that is particularly bad for ticks, and so my suspicion is that there’s quite a few of them out there.”

That’s a suspicion already borne out by copious anecdotes along the lines of “I pulled a dozen of them off my dog this weekend on Cape Cod.” And tick spottings appear to be up around the country.

The scary new statistics come from the CDC: Last summer, it adjusted upward its estimate of Lyme disease prevalence by a factor of 10, to about 300,000 American cases a year. Most are easily resolved with prompt antibiotic treatment but some — an estimated 10 to 20 percent — are not, and once you’ve heard a few of the lingering Lyme horror stories, you resolve to do all you can to protect yourself and your loved ones.

‘May has definitely proven itself to be the tickiest month all across America.’

– Dr. Tom Mather

So what to do? The CDC offers its tips here, and I spoke with Dr. Tom Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease and its TickEncounter Resource Center, a rich repository of evidence-based tick knowledge. He offered five fresh tips, and some new findings on how humidity affects the tick population:

1. Spray your shoes with repellent containing Permethrin. Dr. Mather: “Treating your shoes is a good idea because the nymphal-stage deer ticks are in leaf litter, and so as your shoes move through the leaf litter, that’s where those ticks take hold. They’re not going to to fall out of trees, they’re not going to fly and bite you or anything like that. They’re going to latch onto your shoes and crawl up, and they can crawl up pretty fast. And they’re going to crawl up generally inside your clothes.”

2. Pants. “And so the next place that you want to create a barrier would be your lower clothes, like pants legs. You should be treating the inside as well as the outside, or buy commercially treated clothes that are treated both inside and outside.”

3. The dryer: “Just strip your clothes off as soon as you come inside and throw them in the dryer for 10 minutes on high heat and that will pretty much desiccate any ticks you might carry in.”

4. But you can’t put your dog in the dryer: “So you want to make sure that your dog has effective quick kill product on it like Advantix II. Seresto collars are also very good.” Continue reading

Video: How Ticks Chain-Saw Into Your Skin To Suck Your Blood


Sometimes I appall myself. I know perfectly well what a huge health problem Lyme disease is, infecting 300,000 Americans a year at latest count. WBUR did a series on it; I’ve been reading every word of the excellent Boston Globe series now under way. And yet, I repeatedly fail to check myself after outdoor hikes that could expose me to the ticks that carry the disease, even though I also know that if the ticks are removed promptly, that prevents transmission of Lyme.

So I made myself watch the entire wonderfully grisly science video that The New York Times just posted: How Does A Tick Do Its Dirty Work? Research Video Offers A Clue.

It shows ticks using a proboscis-like appendage whose resemblance to a chainsaw seems quite timely on the eve of Halloween. And the text by James Gorman begins with this ghoulish lead:

Chain saws, hockey masks and the undead are all classic symbols of horror. But for a true shiver of dread, take a look at a tick.
When seen with an electron microscope, a tick’s mouth has what look like twin saws (chelicerae) flanking an appendage (a hypostome) that appears to be the kind of long, barbed sword that a villain in a video game might favor.

The Times also links to a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society detailing those nefarious tick methods. Personally, I’m thinking the video alone will be enough to change my ways. Readers?
(H/T Tom Anthony)