Ontario university to open Lyme disease research lab

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TORONTO – The University of Guelph is opening a research lab dedicated to improving testing and treatment for Lyme disease, a tick-borne bacteria that is increasingly affecting Canadians across the country.

The Ontario university’s lab is being set up with a $1.4-million grant from the G. Magnotta Foundation for Vector-Borne Diseases, named for Magnotta Winery co-founder Gabe Magnotta.

Magnotta died in 2009 from complications of Lyme disease. His wife and business partner Rossana Magnotta created the non-profit foundation in 2012.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia, which is transmitted through the bites of infected ticks.

Infected individuals initially experience flu-like symptoms. But left untreated, the disease can affect the skin, internal organs, musculoskeletal system, eyesight and hearing.

Lyme is often misdiagnosed, as its symptoms can mimic other neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Lyme disease is increasingly recognized as a substantial threat across the country, and there is a profound need for high-quality science that can improve the lives of afflicted Canadians,” said Melanie Wills, a research associate in the school’s molecular and cellular biology department, who will head the new lab.

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