Researcher leads fight against Lyme disease

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“Current tests are not reliable, particularly in the early stages of [Lyme] disease. They also cannot distinguish active infection from past exposure, so they can’t be used to evaluate treatment success. Patients are falling through the cracks left, right and centre.”

Dr. Melanie Wills, Director, G. Magnotta Lyme Disease Research Lab, University of Guelph

Researcher leads fight against Lyme disease

For Guelph researcher Melanie Wills, the fight against Lyme disease is personal. After suffering its symptoms for 20 years before getting a diagnosis, the molecular biologist is now helping lead the charge against the widely misunderstood pathogen.

Backed by a $1.4-milion grant from the G. Magnotta Foundation for Vector-Borne Diseases, Dr Wills is working to help improve diagnostic testing and treatment as head of the university’s G. Magnotta Lyme Disease Research Lab.

Dr. Wills, a research associate in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, is spurred by her own experience of years of misdiagnosis − including a false-negative test result 10 years ago. She hopes to identify biomarkers and prognostic indicators for Lyme disease and uncover evidenced-based testing and treatment options, and she plans to work with other Lyme researchers and centres, develop a national collaborative network of scientists, clinicians and patients, and involve students in research.

The foundation and the new lab is named after Gabe Magnotta, co-founder of Magnotta Winery, who died in 2009 after a seven-year battle with Lyme disease.