Profile of MCE-VBD Research Fellow Matthew Springer
It's not quite true that Matt Springer spent his summer working with rabbits, tigers, and ticks, but sort of... Read on to learn more!
Matt is a Senior at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire majoring in Environmental Public Health. Originally introduced to vector-borne disease control through a class offered at the university, Matt has become very interested in work being done to improve detection and treatment of various vector-borne diseases. With an interest in infectious disease and plans to become a clinician, he wants to use what he learned during his fellowship with MCE-VBD to provide better care for his future patients.
During his fellowship, Matt worked at the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) vector-borne disease unit. He spent most of his time doing routine tick sampling and identification in northern Minnesota but also participated in smaller site investigations in partnership with the zoonotic department. These investigations take place where there are cases of rare zoonotic diseases (ones that can move from animals to people ) or unusually high numbers of cases of more common zoonotic disease. One such investigation Matt joined took place in an area where there was an abnormally high population of male Dermacentor variabilis (also known as the American dog tick or wood tick) that were positive for Francisella tularensis, the bacterium that causes tularemia. Tularemia often kills rabbits and rodents and can be dangerous to human health; the investigation Matt joined centered on an area where many rabbits had died from the disease.
Matt also spent time assembling tick identification kits to be distributed to local health offices. These kits are intended to help both providers and patients identify which tick species the patient was bitten by and gauge the risk of infection by Borrellia burgdorferi (the bacterium that causes Lyme disease).
Matt checks a tick drag -- a heavy piece of canvas dragged on the ground to catch ticks questing for a blood-filled host -- to see if he's caught anything.
The final portion of Matt’s fellowship involved visits to several tire facilities in southern Minnesota where he collected mosquito larvae from water-holding tires and resting adult mosquitoes from surrounding vegetation. These specimens were taken back to MDH where Matt used a microscope to identify the adults and reared the larvae to adulthood for later identification (identifying larvae is hard – adults are easier!). These collection and identification tasks were part of routine surveillance MDH does to monitor for the presence of exotic mosquito species such as Aedes albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito), a potential vector of Zika.