Braintree teen’s tick study makes CDC take notice

Excerpted from the Boston Globe: (04/01/2013)

BRAINTREE — Jacqueline Flynn knew she was on to something, when, one by one, the ticks began to die. The science sleuth had been holed up in front of a clothes dryer for hours, watching and waiting as small mesh bags full of blacklegged deer ticks whirled.

How long can ticks resist heat before perishing? she wondered.

Not long, it seems.

That discovery by the 16-year-old Braintree High School student has won top local science prizes and has caught the attention of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s massive health watchdog.

As part of its tick prevention recommendations, CDC literature urges tumbling tick-infected clothing in a dryer on high heat for at least an hour as one way to eliminate the bloodsucking arachnids. But the agency had not studied the method further.

Flynn’s work concluded that it should take only five minutes at low heat.

“This could have significant implications for Lyme disease prevention,’’ said Christina Nelson, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s office in Fort Collins, Colo., who became intrigued by the teenager’s finding. “If it is true that five minutes in a dryer kills ticks vs. a full hour, that is a lot easier for people, and that could also spark further investigations.”

The CDC’s attention has surprised Flynn, who began her research as a project for her 10th-grade science class. She had only stumbled upon the heat experiment after trying to figure out how to adequately remove ticks from her own clothing.

“I’m really surprised,’’ said Flynn. “I didn’t realize it would go that far.”

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~ by Rob on April 1, 2013.

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