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New app launched in Inverness which aims to prevent the spread of Lyme disease

By Staff Reporter

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Morven-May MacCallum
Morven-May MacCallum

A new project that aims to prevent the spread of Lyme disease in the Northern Hemisphere has been officially launched today in Inverness.

LymeApp, a website and linked app, is being developed by International Disease Mapping Apps, a new company formed by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Highland Health Ventures , Environmental Research Group and Belgium-based Avia GIS NV.

Lyme disease – also known as Lyme borreliosis – is an infection that can be spread to humans by ticks carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.

The app was demonstrated at the launch event where campaigner Morven-May MacCallum, who was left bedridden for eight years by Lyme disease, was among the speakers.

She said: "Lyme disease is an illness of unquestionable power and the damage it has had on my life, and for thousands like me, is unmeasurable.

"It's wonderful to see professionals from across different areas of expertise come together to help advance our knowledge of this disease and, in the process, hopefully find the answers which are so desperately needed."

LymeApp combines the satellite information with data from the Scottish Lyme Disease, and Tick-borne Infections Reference Laboratory in Inverness, as well as information from general medical practitioners and those exposed to ticks through work or recreation. It will use spatial modelling techniques to produce detailed maps of where the ticks are likely to be and where the disease is reported most often.

Diagnosed cases have reached an estimated 3000 per year in the UK and more than 65,000 per year in Europe – if not diagnosed and treated promptly, it can lead to a chronic, debilitating disease.

The app uses citizen science technology to allow the public to report locations via their phone of tick sightings and bites to this central database.

Project lead, Professor George Gunn who is SRUC's head of veterinary epidemiology, said: "This is an extremely exciting, integrated project involving satellites, emerging technology and big data. Following a successful feasibility study, I would like to thank the sponsors and the businesses and individuals who have agreed to take part in this demonstration phase."

Dr Roger Evans, consultant clinical scientist at NHS Highland, said: "LymeApp is an innovative way of involving healthcare professionals, veterinarians and epidemiologists with involvement of the general public to reduce the transmission of Lyme disease among the people of Scotland.

"It is hoped that the fully developed products will be able to be extended to other countries where this disease is common."

The £1.1 million European Space Agency-sponsored project has received £555,000 of match-funding through the UK Space Agency through the European Space Agency’s Integrated Applications Promotion.

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