BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) -- While they may not make the best horror movie villains, ticks can still cause their fair share of trouble.
"The New River Valley is pretty dramatic in the number of Lyme disease cases we've seen over about the past 10 years," said Brandon Jutras, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Virginia Tech.
He and his team just published their findings about a cellular component found in patients with Lyme arthritis - a painful condition that affects more than 50 percent of people with Lyme disease.
He said targeting that component might be the key to treating the condition.
"Understanding that this molecule is being released and that it's hanging around now allows us to have a target, to have something that we can then test critically to understand if this is what's really driving the clinical pathology that we see," Jutras said.
In 2017, Virginia had the ninth-most cases of Lyme disease, with just more than 1,000 confirmed diagnoses according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jutras isn't quite ready to call this most recent discovery a cure.
"I think that we're not there yet," he said.
But he does think it could lead to better, and faster, treatment.
“It’s an important piece of the puzzle I think is a way to think of it and that, potentially, if we can prevent people from responding to this molecule that’s persisting in the synovial fluid or we could basically destroy this molecule, we think we might be able to get patients better faster,” Jutras said.
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