2016 Alexandra Cohen Emerging Leader Award Recipient, Britton J. Grasperge, PhD
Assistant Professor – Clinical Pathology, Louisiana State University
Dr. Britton Grasperge is a veterinary clinical pathologist with a research interest in tick-borne diseases. He completed his PhD investigating the spotted fever group rickettsiosis before receiving the Ruth L. Kirschstein Award to continue his research career as a post-doctoral researcher investigating Borrelial disease. As a new faculty member, he has a special interest in the arthropod’s role in the transmission cycle of tick-borne diseases and continues to explore avenues of research into the complex pathobiology of these ticks and the pathogens they transmit. His project, detailed below, was selected for the 2016 Alexandra Cohen Emerging Leader Award and is described on the LSU website as well.
Post-treatment Lyme disease is a poorly understood syndrome. In animal models of this disease, xenodiagnosis (feeding uninfected ticks upon the animal, followed by examining the ticks for bacteria) results in identification of persistently infected animals when other diagnostics have failed. This finding is likely related to the ability of tick saliva to attract the Lyme Borrelia. In an effort to improve diagnostics and potentially therapeutics for the treatment of Lyme disease, our study aims to identify substances within the tick saliva that are responsible for this attractant property towards Borrelia. Using simple size separation techniques and sophisticated protein separation assays, the molecule or molecules responsible will be identified. Future studies will use these findings to begin testing animal models with novel diagnostics.