Jul 18, 2021

By Jeremy Logan

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Harvard University microbiology student Indumathi Prakash was just seven years old when a tick bite near her home in Massachusetts gave her Lyme disease and left her to spend most of her childhood battling rheumatoid arthritis.

Now the 21-year-old is working with Queen’s University professor Robert Colautti on a rapid test that will diagnose the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in ticks in just a few hours.

Lyme is preventable if antibiotics are given quickly, but because the current test usually takes up to two days, many people with a tick bite are given antibiotics before their tick is ever tested.

Prakash and Colautti both say diagnosing the bacteria more quickly can prevent unnecessary antibiotics and make sure those bitten by an infected tick get the most appropriate medical care.

The two are hoping to soon 3D print the first prototypes of their device that traps ticks and uses a tiny syringe to extract their DNA for testing with a rapid DNA sequencing device.

Lyme disease has been in Canada since the 1980’s but the tick population is growing with warmer winters.

The number of Lyme disease cases in Canada was has grown from fewer than 150 in 2009, to more than 26-hundred in 2019.

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