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College, Institute, or Department

Pathology and Microbiology

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Amanda J. Brinkworth


Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi) is a Lyme Disease causing pathogen that is transmitted via tick-bite by blacklegged (deer) ticks (Ixodes scapularis). These ticks tend choose hosts such as rabbits and mice to feed on, sometimes transmitting harmful pathogens to these animals such as B. burgdorferi, which cycles between rodents and large animals to complete its enzootic cycle. Humans are accidental dead-end hosts for B. burgdorferi. Those infected with B. burgdorferi can develop Lyme Disease, which includes symptoms such as neurological, cardiac, and joint-related complications which are exacerbated by increased feeding time on the host1. Due to the many negative affects Lyme Disease can have on humans, there is a need for medicinal options that could prevent the accumulation of the bacteria at the tick bite site or inhibit the ability of ticks to feed on the human host. We rationalize that a human skin model to study tick-human skin interactions and possible therapeutic screening is needed as there are currently no cost-effective or high-throughput options.

Our in vitro generated skin rafts will enable us to study tick feeding habits and B. burgdorferi transmission comparable to use of in vivo animal models, but more applicable to human infection. We hypothesize that, as B. burgdorferi-positive ticks feed on the rafts, they will transmit the bacteria into the epidermal layer which can later be extracted and quantified. Once these skin rafts have been optimized for maximal tick feeding and B. burgdorferi transmission, they can then be used in high-throughput experiments to find therapies that could modify the bacteria or tick interactions with the host and prevent development of Lyme Disease.


Borrelia burgdorferi, skin raft, Ixodes scapularis, vector-borne disease, tick, Lyme Disease

Optimization of Tick Attachment and Detection of B. Burgdorferi Transmission into In Vitro Generated Skin Rafts