Tick Study Pays Off for William Woods Students

Studying ticks can pay off. Just ask William Woods University students Amanda Candee and Jillian Lee.

The two students have been working with Dr. Mary Spratt, professor of biology, on a tick research project. Last weekend, they won first place for the oral presentation of their research at a meeting of the Missouri Academy of Science (MAS).

They presented the research, with the unwieldy title of “Identification of the Causative Agent of Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis (HME) in Hard-bodied Ticks in Various Missouri Counties,” at the 41st annual meeting of MAS, which was held at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

HME is spread by bacteria carried in ticks, much the same way that Lyme Disease is spread. If an infected tick bites someone, it could inject the bacteria and cause the disease. Missouri is the leading state in the nation in reported cases of HME, which can cause severe illness or even death in untreated individuals.

Candee, who is from Crocker, Mo., and Lee, who is from Morse Mill, Mo., are both juniors majoring in biology. They are working with Spratt under the Mentor/Mentee Honors Program. The program was established at William Woods several years ago to encourage faculty and students to engage in joint research or creative projects.

At the MAS meeting, competition is divided by academic discipline such as physics, computer science and engineering, chemistry, geosciences, social and behavioral sciences, etc. The William Woods researchers were in the Collegiate Division, Biology II (Biomedical).

Coming in second in that division was University of Missouri-Kansas City/Stowers Institute for Medical Research, followed by Northwest Missouri State University in third place.

All colleges and universities in the state can participate—some of the winners in other divisions were from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Truman State University and Drury University.

“We were excited that we were awarded first place in our division!” Spratt exclaimed.

Professor Spratt and her students will have another opportunity to show off their findings. Their research has been accepted for presentation at the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting in Atlanta, Ga., in early June. The ASM is the largest scientific research organization in the world.