Over the last half-century, previously undescribed tick-borne pathogens including the Lyme disease bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, and the babesiosis parasite, Babesia microti, have rapidly spread across the Northeast and Midwest United States. Lyme disease is now the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in North America, with over 300,000 estimated cases a year in the US alone. Despite their epidemiological importance, we still have a poor understanding of this ongoing invasion.
Does the observed spread of human cases reflect the ecological spread of the Lyme disease bacteria? Why are tick-borne pathogens are currently invading the US and how do ticks and tick-borne pathogens spread across space?
My dissertation research draws upon diverse data sources—human case reports as well as pathogen genomic data—in order to reconstruct the history of tick-borne pathogen invasions.