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A Publication for Alumni & Friends of Bemidji State University Vol. 18, No. 4, Summer 2003 BSUCalendar June 20, 2003 Skaar / Wells Fargo Men’s Golf Tournament June 28, 2003 BSU Day at the Metrodome Twins Game July 18, 2003 Galen Nagle Memorial Golf Tournament July 24, 2003 Anchorage, AK, Alumni Reception August 8, 2003 1st National Bank Women’s Golf Classic August 22-23, 2003 BSU Alumni Association Board Meeting / Retreat September 12, 2003 BSU Foundation Board Meeting September 26, 2003 Foundation Annual Meeting / Dinner & Dance September 27 – Oct. 4, 2003 Tentative – AIRC Grand Opening Ceremonies October 2, 2003 40-Year Reunion – Class of 1963 October 3-5, 2003 Homecoming BSUHorizons Deer Ticks Students, FacultyDig into Deer Ticks “ Deer tick research conducted by BSUHorizons Bemidji State University Alumni Association 1500 Birchmont Drive NE, Box 17 Bemidji, MN 56601-2699 218-755-3989 / 1-877-BSU-ALUM NON-PROFIT ORGAN. U.S. POSTAGE P A I D Bemidji, MN 56601-2699 PERMIT NO. 9 Penalt y for Private Use Dr. Patrick Guilfoile and students at Bemidji State University may lead to a better understanding of the biology of this complicated arthropod and to better methods of prevention and treatment of the Lyme disease it transmits. At the very least, research results point to some possible causes for a significant spike in the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease in Minnesota last year. A record number of 867 people in Minnesota developed Lyme disease in 2002, an 88 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Minnesota Health Department. The increase may be startling, but not surprising based on BSU research in which students studied the migration and molecular genetics of deer ticks. What they found is that a broad area of Minnesota, including eight counties that previously had no reports of deer ticks, now harbor ticks that cause Lyme disease as well as other tick-borne diseases. “Our biggest finding is that where there were ticks, there was Lyme disease,” said Guilfoile, chair of the BSU Department of Biology. “The ticks and disease went hand in hand. This was true in areas with newly reported populations of ticks, as well as those with established populations.” The Biology Department has a strong tradition of engaging students in research projects, and BSU requires capstone experiences before students graduate, often an original research project for students in the sciences. Current research projects are broad and include molecular genetics of ticks, tests for identifying antibiotic resistance, identifying parasites in dogs, population observations of owls, studies of invertebrates in the Mississippi River drainage, analysis of parasites that live in fish gills, experimentation to learn how different chemicals affect cancer cells, and studies of forest ecosystems. Funding for these projects comes from external grants, professional development funds and the BIO endow- T hese findings are important and deserve further study. By understanding the genes that ticks express, there is the potential to develop a vaccine that might limit the ability of the tick to feed on a host, therefore limiting the transmission of disease.” Dr. Patrick Guilfoile Dr. Patrick Guilfoile (left) and Jake Taylor, a senior who is researching ticks and the genes they express as part of ongoing studies at BSU. ment through the BSU Foundation. Research projects are important both to students and faculty. Student researchers are able to learn from professors and often have their work published under both names in academic journals. Also, student researchers are more likely to be accepted into graduate programs of their choice and to obtain tuition scholarships with stipends for living expenses. Erich Westrich, a senior in aquatic biology and secondary education, is one student who has enjoyed the benefits of working on research with a faculty member. He spent most of this year glued to a microscope studying zooplankton under the guidance of Debbie Guelda, assistant professor of biology. He presented his work at the Mississippi River Consortium Conference in LaCrosse, WI. The experience was a confidence booster. “Students just need to feel confident and say, ‘I can do this stuff,’” Westrich said. “I did my best answering questions well and to the point, and now I feel more confident. This makes me very excited to do a lot more research and do a thesis for my master’s.” Deer tick research at BSU has received notice as work has been published in three journals. When it comes to deer ticks, Guilfoile and former BSU graduate student Kay Sanders led the way. They first found the spread of ticks when they studied specimens collected from grouse hunters in 17 counties in the fall of 1998 and 1999. Subsequent work by Guilfoile and graduate student David Layfield – now a research specialist at North Dakota State University — found that about 16 percent of the ticks collected in the first phase tested positive for the bac- terium that causes Lyme disease. Guilfoile believes booming tick populations may be attributed to a variety of factors but likely include climate changes or milder winters and warmer, damper weather favorable to ticks. Another probable factor is the boom in white tail deer populations. Both of these afford the deer tick higher rates of survival and opportunities for reproduction. Lyme disease is the most common arthropod-borne illness in the United States. Last year, the U.S. had 20,000 cases of Lyme disease compared with 4,156 cases of West Nile virus. While some have tracked the spread of deer tick populations in other parts of the state, BSU researchers are the first to do so in recent years in north-central Minnesota. Dr. Harold Borchers, BSU professor emeritus of biology, found his first deer tick in Beltrami County in the mid-’80s. Guilfoile’s interest was piqued by Borchers’ work and his own research on host-pathogen interactions: how organisms such as the deer tick manage to outsmart immune systems and pass on pathogens such as Lyme disease to their hosts, usually the white-tailed deer. Guilfoile initiated a third and fourth phase of research to begin to unravel this mystery. In the fall of 2000, he visited a deer registration site and asked hunters to allow him to remove mating ticks from freshly killed deer. Guilfoile and former BSU graduate student Mark Packila found one set of genes in the male ticks that had not been previously identified. These genes may be involved in a variety of things such as maturation of sperm or the blunting of the host immune response making a host more susceptible to being bitten and fed upon. “These findings are important and deserve further study,” Guilfoile said. “By understanding the genes that ticks express, there is the potential to develop a vaccine that might limit the ability of the tick to feed on a host, therefore limiting the transmission of disease.”

Horizons - Summer 2003

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