The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (CDC’s NIOSH) has awarded a four-year grant of more than $2 million to study Lyme disease prevention and exposure among outdoor workers in Rhode Island. Dr. Steven Meshnick, professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is one of the principal investigators for the study.
Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are a significant health concern for many, particularly workers in outdoor occupations who have frequent exposure to tick-infested habitats.
“We hope to show that tick-repellent clothing is a safe and cost-effective way to prevent Lyme disease,” Dr. Meshnick said.
The grant will provide funding over four years for a randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of long-lasting permethrin-impregnated (LLPI) clothing in outdoor workers in preventing tick bites. Permethrin-treated clothing is available commercially at many outdoor retailers. Insect Shield, a company based in Greensboro, NC, is a major supplier of such clothing and will treat the clothing to be worn by study participants.
Meshnick and co-principal investigator Dr. Thomas Mather, director of the Center for Vector-Borne Disease at the University of Rhode Island (Kingston), also will determine how much, if any, of the permethrin is absorbed through the skin and how long the protective effect of the clothing lasts under field conditions. Their findings could help workers determine which work practices and personal protective equipment are most likely to protect against ticks and tick-borne illnesses.