A Lyme disease study at Rockford University that first identified two prairie-dwelling rodents that may spread the illness could get help expanding research through a scientific crowd-funding site.
The research project is listed on Experiment.com, which says it is “supporting 555 funded experiments that are helping to push the boundaries of knowledge.”
Sean Beckmann, assistant biology professor at Rockford University, who is leading the Lyme research, said he was invited to submit a funding proposal to the site’s Wildlife Disease Challenge after a story on the study was published.
The funding goal is $4,500. If the project gets the most backers among 12 studies in the Wildlife Disease Challenge category it could qualify for an extra $1,000. So far, $91 was raised in eight days.
“This grant would really help us expand on the research and take it to the next level,” Beckmann said in an email.
The research on rodents living on restored prairie in the Distillery Road Conservation Area in Boone County is in its third year. The study discovered that meadow jumping mice and 13-lined ground squirrels, also known as striped gophers, were among species that can carry the bacteria without getting sick. When bitten by deer ticks the rodents can pass the bacteria to ticks, which can then bite and infect humans, dogs and other species.
About 75 percent of humans bitten by an infected tick develop a bull’s-eye rash within a month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Flu-like symptoms may be an early sign of the disease. Headache, neck stiffness, arthritis with severe pain, and swelling in knees and other large joints can occur in the days or months following infection. It can also trigger meningitis, irregular heartbeat and neurological disorders, the CDC says.
In 2014, eight cases of Lyme disease were reported in Winnebago County, according to the CDC. One case each was reported in Stephenson and Boone Counties.
Beckmann wrote in his proposal that the money will be used primarily to buy the chemicals needed to test animal tissue for Lyme disease and to identify the strains and species of bacteria present.