South Ga. professor details his research into ticks and the diseases they carry

Ticks are an issue all year long, but it's important to be even more aware of them when you're outside during the spring and especially summer.
Published: May. 2, 2023 at 4:33 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Ticks are a problem for anything that lives or spends time outdoors, especially when those ticks are disease-carrying. WALB’s Jim Wallace sat down with an assistant professor at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) who spoke on what he’s found studying the parasite.

Tony, why ticks?

“Well, ticks spread bacteria and viruses and protozoa that cause a lot of misery and illnesses to people throughout the United States and even here in the southeastern United States as well,” Tony Matthews, assistant professor of biology at ABAC, said. “And our research is focusing on my personal research is focusing on the spread of. Disease throughout this area and unfortunately Lyme disease can be the person can have it and not know it for a long period of time, so it could cause some very debilitating illnesses. So it’s very important that people be safe throughout the summertime as ticks are starting to come out, they’ll grab on you and you don’t even know it. And a lot of the wants to spread the disease or very small, even smaller than the head of the pencil. So it’s important that people check themselves and they come out in the woods and that they really, really are well, the surroundings as they Go through.”

How do you study a tick?

“Uh, very, very carefully,” Matthews said. “You have to collect them, but it’s called different methods we can use. We can use dragging and flagging. You can also collect them off road kill or off hunter, sometimes on it the deer. And so we have multiple different ways that we can actually collect them.”

Photo of researchers collecting and analyzing ticks.
Photo of researchers collecting and analyzing ticks.(Source: Tony Matthews, ABAC, and Old Dominion University)

How big a problem are ticks in South Georgia? Are they increasing?

“They are,” Matthews said. “I’ve found over 300 myself in the short amount of time that I’ve been doing this. So yeah, they’re they are a huge, huge problem. They’re not as bad here as they are in the Northeast because of the different types. Of hosts that they have, but they still are a problem around here as well.”

What do you hope to get from your research? What’s the end result you hope to find?

“What I’m hoping to find is we’re trying to be a little more proactive than reactive. And we like to know what is the prevalence of pathogens around this area that do in fact cause disease and if they can know that ahead of time, perhaps we. Can help stop it before it starts,” Matthews said.

Matthews is also working in concert with Old Dominion University to study ticks.