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Obstacles to killing the bug

Eva Sapi, Ph.D., who teaches molecular biology for graduate students and does Lyme disease research at the University of New Haven, Connecticut, has one goal. "To kill the bug," she says. "And not in ten years, not even in six months, but soon!" She and her team of medical researchers are intent on figuring out why the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, the bug that causes Lyme disease, is so difficult to eradicate.

Lyme disease cases are increasing, and Sapi says she fears this year will be a bad one for ticks, and stresses the importance of prevention. Field research conducted this spring has yielded a disturbing find in her region, she says. The number of ticks carrying the infectious Borrelia bacteria has increased to 60%, up from previous years' 20-30%. She says one possible explanation for the increase could be changing temperatures. Recent mild winters may not have not dropped temperatures sufficiently long enough or frigid enough to kill the ticks.

Sapi is frustrated by the political controversy surrounding Lyme, saying that in her previous research into cancer, such obstacles were not a problem. Unnecessarily harsh criticism of her scientific findings having to do with the Borrelia bacteria has limited the number of publications where her research can be reviewed. However, significant support is increasing from other areas. Grants offered to ILADS from the Turn the Corner Foundation are currently helping fund Sapi's department at University of New Haven for research projects that hopefully, ultimately will help her reach her goal. And soon.

Dr. Sapi spoke with us on April 27, 2008. Members, please keep an eye out for our conversation about her research, to be posted soon to the Lyme Expert Audio Interview page.
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