For this study, we are asking Arkansas residents to send us ticks so that we can assess the colonization rates of various bacterial pathogens in these ticks (e.g., Rickettsia, Francisella, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Borrelia) by DNA detection and sequence analyses. Ticks and tick-borne diseases are common in Arkansas with tick-borne diseases accounting for approximately one-third of the disease reports submitted to the Arkansas Department of Health Communicable Disease Section. Although Arkansas has some of the highest incidence rates of tick-borne diseases in the United States, the prevalence and distribution of the responsible pathogens within these vectors in Arkansas are not fully appreciated. This research represents an important step towards informing the medical and residential communities of Arkansas about the prevalence and geographic distribution of tick-borne bacterial pathogens that threaten Arkansans.
Please understand that this a research study and not a diagnostic service intended for use in making clinical decisions. If you have a tick that you have saved for testing solely because you are concerned about contracting a pathogen after a bite, we encourage you to keep this tick for future diagnostic testing and do not submit it to us. This study is part of an ongoing collaborative research project between researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), UA-Fayetteville, and the Arkansas Department of Health and is supported in part by funding through Centers for Disease Control (to ADH), Arkansas Biosciences Institute, UAMS College of Medicine, and the NIH-supported Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence program. The researchers also acknowledge Dr. Nathan Nieto and the Bay Area Lyme Foundation for serving as a template for this current study.
Sample Submission Instructions
Place the tick(s) in a Ziploc-style bag with a piece of damp paper towel or moist cotton ball.
Close the bag and seal the opening of the bag with tape.
Complete and sign the sample submission form; links to the form are provided below. Submitter’s contact information and the location where the ticks were collected are important for distribution mapping. Please provide GPS coordinates if possible.
To mail to UAMS,
Place the bag and submission form in either a padded envelope or a normal envelope with padding around the bag(s) of ticks; the latter type of envelope may require less postage.
Address the envelope and mail it to UAMS. The shipping address is provided on the submission form.
Sample Submission Form
This study is not intended for use in clinical decisions or as a diagnostic tool. Do not send your tick to us if you want to use our results to determine the course of your own personal health care decisions. You can submit your tick to a pay-for-service company (e.g., TickReport or IGeneX) that is certified for this type of diagnostic service.
The laboratory of Dr. Jon Blevins at UAS will test the tick you submit for the presence of DNA associated with disease-causing pathogens. These tests are not intended to provide clinical diagnosis of disease and should not be interpreted as a substitute for clinical testing or consultation with a physician. Dr. Blevins does not practice medicine and he cannot provide medical advice. Results from your tick test will be used to determine the timing, location, abundance, and infection status of ticks across the state. Accordingly, this information will be shared with the public and health agencies that may request it. The shared data is completely anonymous. UAMS protects the identity of the individual bitten by or submitting the tick. Information about the bite victim and/or submitter is used only for the purpose of communicating results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get the results from my ticks’ pathogen screen?
No. We currently don’t have the personnel necessary to disseminate the results to all contributors. Please remember that these testing service can’t be used for clinical or diagnostic decisions. It will take us a while to process the samples and obtain the results. In addition, the samples will be blinded (e.g., de-identified) for most of the study to allow for an unbiased evaluation. If you have a tick that you have saved specifically for testing because you are concerned about contracting a pathogen after a bite, we suggest you keep this tick for future diagnostic testing and do not submit it to us. There are pay-for-service companies that will accept ticks for screening and diagnosis (e.g., TickReport or IGeneX).
What types of ticks do you want?
We want all types of ticks from all around Arkansas. They can be found in your yard, the woods, on an animal, or on you. Ideal participants in this study are individuals that spend a significant amount of time outdoors during work or recreation that encounter large numbers of ticks through their activities. The accuracy of our surveillance study improves as we receive more ticks from a given area. Unfed, viable ticks are preferred. As noted above, this is not a screening service for clinical diagnosis, but we can accept fed/attached ticks to screen for the purpose of surveying ticks from a given area.
Can I send you ticks that are dead?
Living/viable ticks are preferred, but we can screen dead ticks if they survive shipping without disintegrating.
Can I place more than one tick in a bag?
Yes. Ticks that have a common history (e.g., collected from the same animal, collected during the same hike/event, etc.) can be combined in a single bag.
Can I send multiple bags of ticks in one envelope?
Yes, but please label the different bags and describe them on the form. For instance, label the bags #1 and #2 and then describe on the form the histories of the ticks in each bag by referring to them as #1 and #2.
Can I save up my ticks and submit them all at once?
Yes, but keep the ticks alive in a bag with a moist paper towel or cotton ball. In addition, try to have them to us within a week of collection. Viable and healthy ticks are best.
Can I submit ticks that have either fed on or were attached to an animal or human?
Yes, but please indicate this clearly on the form. Ticks that have previously fed on humans must be handled more carefully in the lab due to exposure to human blood products. As noted above, this is not a screening service for clinical diagnosis. We can only accept fed/attached ticks to screen for the purpose of surveying ticks from a given area.
Can I send ticks off my animal if it has been treated with flea/tick control product?
Yes, but please include this information on the submission form.
Can I send the bags in a normal envelope?
Yes. To cut shipping costs, ticks can be sent in a regular envelope with some sort of padding (paper towel) around the plastic bag. Ultimately, the need for a padded envelope might depend on the number of ticks or bags, how old/desiccated the ticks are, or if they are fully fed; these latter two types of ticks would be more fragile. Most unfed ticks and nymphal stage ticks can be sent in a normal envelope with minimal padding.
Can I submit ticks that are stuck to tape or a lint roller?
This is not preferred, but we can work with ticks stuck to some types of tape/adhesive paper. When the ticks are stuck to an adhesive material, they are difficult to remove and it takes much longer to collect and sort them. If a tick is compromised during extrication from the tape, it can’t be accurately speciated and must be discarded. In addition, ticks immobilized on adhesive have a shorter survival time. If you have to use tape, painters’ masking tape is best because it has lower adhesive properties. Don’t use duct tape. Ticks can rarely be removed from duct tape intact.
Can I drop off my ticks at UAMS?
No, we currently do not have a campus drop off option. We are only accepting mail submissions at this time.
How many ticks do you need?
Some news reports stated we needed 500 ticks, but we actually require many more than 500 to generate accurate incidence and distribution measurements. Please submit as many ticks as you can, even if they are from the same area.
Will you come out to my property and collect ticks?
Unfortunately, we currently have limited resources available to actively collect ticks. That is the main reason we initiated the “citizen scientist” approach of having Arkansas residents send us ticks. We might contact you if we identify your property as a potential site where we want to follow up on the pathogen colonization results. If you have a specific interest in collection, contact us by email and we will put you on our list of future sampling sites if we manage to get more people involved.