Demystifying the Tick with Bobbi Pritt, M.D.

A recent "Mpls-St Paul" magazine article highlighted Bobbi Pritt, M.D., Director of the Clinical Parasitology Lab and Co-Director of Vector-Borne Diseases Lab Services in Mayo Clinic’s Department of Lab Medicine and Pathology, and her research on ticks and parasites. In the article, Dr. Pritt discussed her DIY projects, her "Creepy Dreadful Wonderful Parasites" blog, her research projects, and her infamous tick-dragging parties.

Black-legged tick

According to Dr. Pritt, with five or six or seven research projects going on at once, she feels fortunate that she is able to mix business and pleasure—especially after the snow has melted and tick season begins. This is showtime for a parasitologist, and anxiety tends to creep into her daily life.

Lone star tick

Growing up in Vermont, Pritt lived a tick-free childhood. Since then, as ticks continue to expand their range, Vermont has joined the Northeast’s tick hotbed. A new federal health study ranked Minnesota number seven for tick-based infections. Even within Minnesota, black-legged ticks now show up further west and north. And, Dr. Pritt is bracing for the eventual local arrival of the Lone Star tick, which is a vector for ehrlichiosis: a potentially deadly bacterial disease. The black-legged tick (a re-branding effort for the pest previously known as the “deer tick”) harbors Lyme disease, the most prevalent tick-borne disease.

In some cases, ticks aren’t born with these diseases; they pick them up from feeding on other animals, usually small rodents. This is where Dr. Pritt’s lab comes in. All year long, the team tests blood samples from patients with suspected tick-borne diseases to identify the pathogens making people sick. “If we know they are out there, in ticks and wildlife, we can do studies to see how common they are and learn how to prevent infection with them,” Pritt says.

Read the full article to learn more about Dr. Pritt's research and what to do if you find a tick.

Kelley Luedke

Kelley Luedke is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her kitty, and exploring new foods.